Tift College of Education, Penfield College Organize Second Annual Mercer STEAM Day


ATLANTA – Mercer University's Tift College of Education and Penfield College are organizing the second annual Mercer STEAM Day on May 2, in addition to supporting the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) in its efforts to promote Georgia STEM Day on May 5.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and STEAM adds art into the equation. The goal of both STEM and STEAM initiatives is to equip students with skills required of 21st-century workers.

Mercer's STEAM Team – composed of Tift College professors Dr. Cynthia Anderson, Dr. Sharon Augustine, Dr. Justin Ballenger, Dr. Jabari Cain, Dr. Jeff Hall, Dr. Melissa Jurkiewicz, Dr. William Lacefield, dr. deb rosenstein and Dr. Clemmie Whatley, and Penfield College professors Dr. Greg Bauger, Dr. Colleen Stapleton, Dr. Zipangani Vokhiwa and Dr. Sabrina Walthall – will provide professional development activities for pre-service teachers on May 2, which will consist of integrated STEAM learning for K-12 teachers.

“Mercer must be engaged in preparing students to become well qualified and competent with the skills and systems thinking required in STEAM fields of study. Tift College of Education and Penfield College play a major role in producing educators who will influence children's educational and career pathways,” said Dr. Whatley. “In many instances, the pre-service and in-service teachers we serve are not fully prepared to facilitate children's learning through interactive, integrated, exciting STEM or STEAM experiences. The STEAM Team believes that a long-term strategic focus on STEM education is needed that will support STEAM-ready educators.”

Mercer faculty members have been involved in a variety of STEAM initiatives through coursework, community service and grants. STEM professional development activities have been inspired, initiated and instigated by the University's InTeGrate grant initiative, on which Tift College of Education and Penfield College faculty are collaborating to improve earth literacy among students and among Georgia's in-service teachers.

Tift College of Education has submitted a proposal to offer the STEM endorsement to in-service teachers at the pre K-12 level and is awaiting approval from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

“As the need for STEAM practitioners increases throughout society, from K-12 classrooms to cutting-edge industries, Mercer is committed to providing STEAM education initiatives to meet this demand,” said Dr. Hall. “In particular, Penfield College and Tift College of Education are focused on providing engaging and inspiring STEAM education initiatives for educators and students alike. These activities are designed to spark the imagination and discover the many ways that STEAM impacts our lives.”

Students in Dr. Ballenger's Science Methods courses participated in several community events during the spring. They volunteered at the third annual BioLogue Hands-On STEM Adventures event March 25 in Decatur, where kids, ages 5-18, participated in a number of free, hands-on workshops in microscopy, forensic botany, anatomy and physiology, drones, embryology and more. They held a STEAM fair, which included constructing DNA models, modeling projectile motion with catapults and 3-D printed gliders, and demonstrating force and motion with model cars, on April 18 at the Kindezi School in DeKalb County. Dr. Ballenger's students also held a subsequent STEAM fair, which included hands-on demonstrations known as Discrepant Events, on April 26 at Mercer's Henry County Regional Academic Center for She STEAM, an organization that promotes STEAM engagement among area girls.

Dr. Ballenger, Dr. Walthall and Dr. Donald Ekong in the School of Engineering are partnering with DoD STARBASE, a Department of Defense youth program, to hold a free summer STEM camp at Robins Air Logistics Complex for Middle Georgia girls in grades three through six. The camp will be supported by graduate students in Mercer's Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows Program led by Dr. Augustine and Dr. Jurkiewicz and undergraduate students participating in a research project supported by the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Office and led by Dr. Ballenger, Dr. Walthall and Dr. Ekong.

Dr. Ballenger and Dr. Whatley received a Provost's SEED Grant to design and implement a one-week summer STEAM experience, which will be held June 19-23 at the Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta. Morning sessions will include boys in grades three through eight from the Kindezi School, and afternoon sessions will include girls in grades three through eight from the I Am B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. educational enrichment program.

Penfield College and Tift College of Education are also partnering with Real I.M.P.A.C.T. Center in Macon July 5-21 on its annual Girl Power STEM Summer Camp. The three-week camp on Mercer's Macon campus will also be supported by Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows and undergraduate students.

Dr. Ballenger, Dr. Vokhiwa, Dr. Carl Davis in Tift College of Education and Dr. Phil McCreanor in the School of Engineering are partnering with Mercer's Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Fund for Advancement of Education in the Dominican Republic and the University's Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows Program to organize a Mercer On Mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Volunteers will assist with setup of an aquaponics greenhouse and STEM center at Juan Pablo Duarte High School in San Pedro's Consuelo community. They will also deliver professional development workshops for local teachers and partner with those teachers to host a STEM camp for high school students. 

Additional support for the Mercer On Mission trip, including equipment and expertise to construct the STEM center and ensure that it is sustainably integrated into the community, will be provided by the Andrew J. Young Foundation, Sciberus Technologies Inc. and Hatponics. Once the STEM center is fully operational, it will serve the dual purpose of engaging local students in hands-on STEM learning and providing food for underprivileged families in the community.

About the Tift College of Education

Mercer University's Tift College of Education – with campuses in Macon, Atlanta and the University's three Regional Academic Centers – prepares more professional educators than any other private institution in Georgia. The College offers baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and is guided by the conceptual framework of the “Transforming Practitioner,” which supports those who aspire to grow professionally throughout their careers, while also seeking to transform the lives of students. education.mercer.edu

About Penfield College of Mercer University

Penfield College of Mercer University, established as the College of Continuing and Professional Studies in 2003, is committed to serving non-traditional learners and currently enrolls more than 1,300 students. Undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are offered to working adult learners seeking professional advancement into leadership roles in and beyond their communities. Educational programs provide students with distinctive, multidisciplinary programs that integrate theory and practice. The College offers general education and elective courses for various colleges and schools at Mercer. Another initiative called the Bridge program transitions students enrolled in Mercer's English Language Institute and other international students to undergraduate programs throughout the University. Areas of study include organizational leadership, counseling, human services, human resources, informatics, criminal justice leadership, nursing preparation, liberal studies, psychology, communication, homeland security and emergency management, and healthcare leadership. Programs are offered on Mercer's campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as multiple regional academic centers in Douglas County, Henry County and Newnan, and online. To learn more, visit penfield.mercer.edu.