PROVIDENCE, RI [Brown University] – Robot building, LEGO stacking, microscopy, crafting – in an innovative new learning space at Vartan Gregorian Elementary School built with financial support and partnership from Brown University, all of these activities and more are now possible .
On Friday, October 28, Providence Public School officially opened its new “STEAM Room,” where K-5 students can immerse themselves in interactive, hands-on experiments and projects that blend science, technology, engineering, arts and math — or STEAM for short.
A year ago, the space was an empty third-grade classroom with outdated linoleum floors, green tile, and limited natural light. Thanks to a productive collaboration between staff at Brown and Vartan Gregorian Elementary, it’s now a bright, vibrant space that will inspire creativity in teachers and children alike, said school principal Matthew Russo.
“We now have a real living space where all students can come to be inspired…and actively engaged,” Russo said. “We are so happy and grateful to have it, and we just know our students are going to love this space.”
At a spirited celebratory event Friday morning, Russo hosted state and city education officials, colleagues from Brown and Vartan Gregorian Elementary — and more than a dozen fourth- and fifth graders who used a break from other studies to engage in a creative engineering challenge: raise a brown flag using at least three simple machines and no less than six chain reactions.
Brown President Christina H. Paxson said the University’s support for the project is part of a decades-long partnership between Brown and Fox Point Elementary School, located a few blocks away. from campus. Throughout the 1990s, the late Vartan Gregorian—then Brown’s president—considered it his “adopted” school, partnering with educators and local leaders to expand its resources and physical footprint, connecting students to tutoring and mentoring and organizing school-wide enrichment activities. The school was renamed in Gregorian’s honor in 1997.
“It’s hard to do complicated things yourself – you really need other people around you,” Paxson said at the groundbreaking on Friday, drawing a parallel between collaborative engineering projects by students and the enduring partnership between Brown and Vartan Gregorian Elementary. “And I must say that the realization of this project was the result of teamwork… [involving] people inside Brown, people outside of Brown, and then of course… people who work in school and are so excited about everything [they] do.”