Neighborhood and Community Services

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Lloyd Tucker

NCS and FCPS Forge New Partnership to Offer Virtual STEAM Series

Pier Penic, Smithsonian
Sam Ettaro interviews Pier Penic, Education Specialist for the Smithsonian.

In a new partnership, the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services and Fairfax County Public Schools have teamed up to offer Gathering STEAM, an asynchronous course for students in grades 7-12. Each course explores a topic in science, technology, engineering, arts, or math and engages students in an entertaining television show format. 

Gathering STEAM is an authorized afterschool program and is currently available through three Fairfax County public schools and on NCS Connects, the county’s virtual platform for youth and teens. Each course includes a 30-minute video and a complete lesson plan with 5-8 follow-up activities. While live sessions are offered on occasion, the short courses are designed for students to walk through lessons on their own.

The weekly series is hosted and produced by Sam Ettaro, Clubhouse Coordinator at the Gum Springs Community Center Clubhouse in Alexandria and one of several Information Technology Educators for NCS. The pilot episode features a discussion about a collaboration between the Clubhouse Network and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Guest Pier Penic, K-12 Education Specialist for the Smithsonian, talks about the “Peace Warriors for the Arts” project, inviting involvement from students. 

Penic explains, “Peace Warriors for the Arts is an opportunity for teen clubhouse members around the world to use all aspects of technology to explore, educate and create a platform for global understanding through an African lens. Not only are they learning about a global culture, but they will have the opportunity to work with team leaders and mentors. Also, teen members can select three or more art projects to complete during the school year.”

Web TV interviews such as the one with Penic are used as the foundation for the activities laid out in Gathering STEAM. In this case, students start by watching the interview and learning more about the museum, then move on to activities where they explore African culture through the lens of artistic expression. Previous course topics include careers in filmmaking featuring an interview with the Chairman of the Board for the Stan Lee Foundation, and an exploration of the Red Sea. New episodes are available every Thursday.

Interested in Gathering STEAM? We’re looking for more partner schools! FCPS schools and students may contact to request the Google Classroom link.

Gathering STEAM

Fairfax Virtual Assistant