Picking up STEAM: At BCC, students show off new skills learned through blend of arts, science

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PITTSFIELD — For teachers, artists, students and families, the STEAM Team is a dream collaboration.

Last week, nearly two dozen city elementary school students participated in the free summer program that brings together leaders in art, dance, nature and science education to teach activities related to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, or STEAM, at Berkshire Community College.

The STEAM Team pilot first launched in 2017, and continues to feature teachers from BCC, Flying Deer Nature Center, IS183 Art School of the Berkshires, Jacob's Pillow and its festival partners from the Maryland-based Dance Exchange.

On Friday, the students and teachers presented a showcase developed around the week's teaching theme of insects, from how they change throughout their life cycles, how they protect themselves, and how they help the environment through processes like pollination and soil aeration.

First, visiting family members and friends got to tour the Hoffman Environmental Center, peering at butterfly eggs through microscopes, and paging through handmade nature journals the students logged their observations in all week.

Next, they brought their guests outside for a short tutorial on wild edibles they foraged for and tasted, from sumac berries to wood sorrel to the cooked pods of milkweed plants.

The group migrated by a nest they set up under a building's eaves, which has since become populated by sparrows, then gathered in the BCC Connector building for a demonstration in nature-inspired dance. The kids wore iridescent butterfly wings they made and presented choreography representing metamorphosis, crouching into a pupating state before bursting their bodies forth with great gusto, like a butterfly.

"This has been amazing," said Kate Loria, whose daughter Nicole participated for a second summer. "I think it's opened her eyes, and I've learned a lot about nature, too."

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