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When you integrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) studies with the arts, you get STEAM; one Indianapolis Public Schools music teacher is going full STEAM ahead on an exciting and educational project, thanks to a $10,000 grant from Donors Choose!

Laura Bartolomeo, music teacher at Center for Inquiry School 84, came up with an engaging project for her fourth grade classes. She started a Donors Choose entry to raise funds for kits allowing students to make their own dulcimers. The integration of lessons including math (ratios), science (sound frequency), engineering (dulcimer assembly) and music (dulcimer performance) made this project a perfect fit for the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum’sIgniting STEAM for Student Innovators” challenge.


Donors Choose nominated innovative projects for the competition, and a panel of judges determined finalists. Bartolomeo’s “STEAMY Rockin’ Ratios” project was selected as one of three finalists in the 3rd-5th grade category; it was then up to an online vote for the public to decide the winners.


“Once I found out I was a finalist, the whole school went into voting mode,” said Bartolomeo. “Teachers, staff, students, families, extended family were all a part of the win. I used social media to rally friends, family, and supporters of music, teachers, and education. I’ve never had anything like this happen before and it is so fulfilling to experience.”


Bartolomeo received $10,000 in credits on Donors Choose, and her idea may be featured at the EMP Museum in Seattle! Since the dulcimer project is already fully funded thanks to the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and other donors, she and her students are making plans for the best use of those Donors Choose credits.


“I’m going to use some of the credits to let my students pick some projects from high-poverty schools to support. Once we’ve used the credits for some ‘paying it forward,’ I’ll take a look at needs in my music program. A big thank you to all who helped us win this challenge!”


Get ready to see this engaging and unique project in action at CFI 84 soon; students will be studying sound frequencies, measuring and cutting materials, and assembling their dulcimers soon. Once the building process is complete, these traditional folk instruments will be played by CFI 84 students in their studies linked to Indiana’s Bicentennial Celebration.


We’re thrilled to share this exciting accomplishment with our community, and we look forward to hearing the wonderful music of our CFI 84 students!