On Thursday, Nov. 13, the SPC Foundation and Raymond James Financial hosted the third annual Innovation Grants Luncheon. The event is held to celebrate the outcomes and achievements of projects funded by the 2013-14 Innovation Grants and to thank the donors who made the grants possible.
The program provided more than $73,000 to fund 24 grants during the 2013-14 academic year, up from $50,000 the previous year, which supported 16 grants. These financial resources are used to implement programs that broaden the scope of the curriculum, deepen the college experience and improve student achievement.
Faculty often face the challenge of finding innovative ways to engage students in active learning. Through these Innovation Grants, faculty across a wide spectrum of disciplines are able to engage students and the community in a new way.
The theme of Thursday’s event was the incorporation of art in the study of science. Luncheon guests were invited to view project tables and participate in a drum circle facilitated by Steve Turner from Giving Tree Music.
Innovation Grant recipient Meg Delgato, academic chair of Natural Science at the Tarpon Springs Campus, spoke about her project, which utilized the drum circle environment to bring together art and science through innovative, hands-on learning. Students looked at the project through the lenses of critical thinking to see how it plays into neuroscience, disorders and other medical benefits.
“This grant allowed my students to use the drum circle as the key activity for learning in a biological issues class during the spring semester,” Delgato said. The drum circle gave students the opportunity to study and investigate the connections between art, music and science. It also served as the platform for a semester-long class project, which culminated in posting and facilitating a community drum circle that involved the Midtown and Tarpon Springs communities.
Anne Ryan, assistant professor of Early Childhood Education, said her innovation grant project Full STEAM Ahead – Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts emphasized creating quality teachers whose training is research- and evidence-based. Through the innovation grant, they brought a master teaching artist from Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts to SPC to complete a residency program and put on a workshop to help SPC students integrate science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics into early childhood education.
“Many of our students are working in early childhood centers and preschools, and we know the best outcomes for young children in those settings is to have qualified, highly-educated teachers,” Ryan said. “We want children to learn how to articulate what it is they are doing.”
Highlights from the program are on display in the student exhibit at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art.
Biology professor Kathy Siegler spoke about the difficulties faced by non-English speaking students who are enrolled in science courses. Her innovation grant project aimed to help students become more engaged and therefore more successful by developing a mentoring team to work with students and faculty to develop a scientific lexicon in various languages.
“One of my pet projects for a really long time is to try and make sure students, no matter who they are, are really good at writing and communicating,” Siegler said. “You need to be able to communicate with your peers. For a student to be a really good scientist, they need to be able to take this jumble of words that we throw at them, make them their own, and use them in an effective way.”
Michelle Osovitz, professor of biology, spoke about her portion of a joint art and science integration project she has worked on with professors Shannon McQuaig-Ulrich, Erin Goergen and Monica Lara. The project integrated the study of science, math and art into the application of metalsmithing and creation of kinetic spinner rings and other jewelry.
“The mission of our project was to inspire passion for science through creative use of art,” she said. “We can almost trick you into doing science if we’re creative about it. And data shows this is true: the more art you have, the more engaged you’ll be.”
Ray Menard, Associate Professor of Natural Science, shared about how he and his students set out to investigate how bacteria communicate, engaging in active learning and working with each other and independently to develop critical thinking, data analysis and organizational skills along the way. What began as an exercise with bacteria in a plate of spices turned into something more: an accidental contamination resulted in a microbe that was producing an antibiotic.
They set out to investigate the microbe by learning how to stain bacteria, perform a protein analysis and DNA isolation.
“This is the type of stuff that is going on throughout the world for identifying different diseases and criminals in different crime labs throughout the country,” Menard said. “Our students are doing this type of high-tech stuff here at SPC.”
See more photos from the event on the college’s Facebook page.