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West Virginia School Unveils Hands-On STEAM Center

Months of renovations transformed the basement of East Fairmont Middle School into a learning space with technology to prepare students for jobs in various local industries, from neuroscience to agriculture to robotics.

(TNS) — Middle school students will be able to learn in a hands-on environment with the opening of the STEAM Center in the basement of the former East Fairmont Middle School, starting Monday.

After months of renovations, the ribbon cutting and launch event were held Friday. Marion County School officials met to celebrate and discuss the future of the center and the STEAM program, which will be a place to explore science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

"It's important for us in Marion County Schools because it continues a vision that we have for our students to get hands-on, innovative instruction that is connected with our careers and industry in the area," Marion County School Superintendent Donna Hage said. "We're creating a pipeline so that our students stay here in North Central West Virginia."

Hage said students will learn about topics ranging anywhere from neuroscience to agriculture to robotics.

"I think STEAM is real life. In real life, we don't segregate into our science or English part of our day," Marion County Schools STEAM Instructor Margie Suder said. "Our real life problems incorporate all of those things and I think in order to solve real-world problems, you have to look at the science and use your technology. So, in this, they get to see all of that put together. They get to see that it takes everything to really solve the problem. There's a lot of skills. There's cooperation, collaboration and communication."

Suder said that the STEAM program launched in 2018 and she began working as the instructor on the STEAM Machine Bus Program. Last year, plans of creating a STEAM Center began developing as part of a vision to expand the program. Renovations on the basement began in October 2021.

"It's exciting and a testament to the maintenance crew because really, they were able to turn it around so swiftly with all that they've been facing," Hage said.

Many thank-yous were shared, including one from Mary Jo Thomas, Marion County Board of Education president.

"Thank you seems so inadequate, but those two words mean so much," Thomas said. "Thank you to Marion County for having confidence in us to vote for levies and bonds to allow us to have all of this coming back. Our partners with the county and the city have been fantastic ... How wonderful this is going to be.

"It is so nice. It does take a village and I can say that all of our board members are 100 percent dedicated to this and to all that it stands for and for other possibilities for students and faculty and staff in this county. We are all a family, we all do it together and together we're stronger."

Suder said she will be in the center everyday. Groups of 30-40 students will arrive with their classroom teacher and begin engaging in the lessons she has planned.

"I'm excited to see the kids," Suder said. "To see that the community built this for them. The community cares about them and their education and wants them to have hands-on experience with great technology.

"I don't know if some kids get that support and love, but it's nice for them to know that the community is behind them and sees them as being successful."

©2022 the Times West Virginian (Fairmont, W. Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.