Prairie View Elementary in Goshen is experiencing a culture transformation, thanks to a program called “STEAM Team.”
This program has changed the atmosphere of Prairie View, said Angie Edwards, STEAM Team founder. “The STEAM Team has dramatically influenced the culture of our school by promoting acceptance, friendship, and problem solving to include EVERYONE through education and relationship building activities.”
STEAM Team stands for “Students Together Educating And Mentoring,” and pairs general education students with special education students. The pairs go together to classes considered “specials” — music, gym, computer, art and library.
STEAM Team stands for “Students Together Educating And Mentoring”
Angie Edwards had the idea of creating the STEAM Team three years ago when she started at Prairie View Elementary, as a way to connect students in the school’s functional skills and emotional disability classrooms to their peers in the building.
“Staff at Prairie View recognized that all students come to school with strengths and challenges in their academic, social, and physical abilities,” Angie said, “and saw a unique opportunity for social interaction, education, and understanding to be cultivated between students in general education classes and those in special needs classes.”
The program has expanded beyond just during the “specials” class times. Angie meets monthly with each general education peer buddy to talk about how the partnership is going and how to be a good buddy. At the end of the school year, the pairs decorate photo frames and keep photos of each other over the summer. Waterford Mennonite Church has also taken an interest in the program and has been planning several activities, like art projects, through the year for the students involved in the program.
Marge Gingerich, Prairie View’s counselor, said she sees the benefits of the STEAM Team.
“I think the benefits are as much for the general education students as for the special education students,” Marge said, “as far as being tolerant and accepting and encouraging of students different than themselves.”
The students in the STEAM Team program don’t only interact during “specials,” but greet each other in the hallway and wherever they see each other around Prairie View. That’s significant for many of the functional skills and emotional disability students, she said, “just to be recognized.”
Prairie View Elementary Principal Tracey Noe has also seen the effect of the program in the school.
“It has really helped to bridge the presence of the special education students in our building and the general education students,” Tracey said. “We all win when we all work together as a ‘Team of One’ to better the experiences for all of our students at Prairie View.”
“Staff at Prairie View recognized that all students come to school with strengths and challenges in their academic, social, and physical abilities.”
“[We] saw a unique opportunity for social interaction, education, and understanding to be cultivated between students in general education classes and those in special needs classes.”