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Learning with art

by HANNAH NEFF/Staff Writer
| October 15, 2021 1:00 AM

She’s still getting things done.

Adeline Smith, the fourth-grader who founded Growing the STEM with her older sister, Lilian, in 2017, is now a freshman at Lake City High School and the work hasn’t ended.

The 15-year-old co-developed a new after-school program, the STEAM club, over the summer through a collaboration with Borah Elementary School teacher Shari Jackson.

“I am completely impressed with her, her drive, her motivation,” Jackson said. “I sometimes have to remind myself that she's in ninth grade.”

STEAM club is a branch off Growing the STEM (GTS), a nonprofit organization to support math and science programs for students in Coeur d’Alene public schools. The emphasis is on developing youth leaders and encouraging underrepresented groups to pursue STEM education and activities.

The new program, STEAM club, is focused on integrating arts with STEM, geared toward second- and third-graders.

“I thought that we were kind of missing the creative aspects,” Adeline said. “That excludes a large number of kids and their abilities.”

Adeline said she thought art would be the perfect way to teach math and science to creative minds.

Each lesson covers an art element and principle of design with an interdisciplinary connection to math and science.

Adeline said she and Jackson met about twice a week throughout the summer to create the eight-week program, working on curriculum, fundraising and finding teen coaches willing to volunteer their time.

Currently they have 18 students and seven teen coaches in the club.

“It's amazing to be able to have an impact on young people in our community,” Lynsey Overturf, a teen coach and junior at Coeur d’Alene High School said. “They're so ready and excited to learn.”

Adeline said she felt that working with the program helped grow her teaching and connection skills.

“I think most of the benefit just comes from their benefit and knowing that they enjoyed it and are learning something,” Adeline said. “So that's what’s special.”

In the future, Adeline said she’s thinking about becoming a high school teacher.

“When she’s with kids, she just lights up,” Jackson said. “She doesn’t see that in herself but I do.”

Jackson said her role is one of support in the background, and the teen coaches do the teaching.

Piloting at Borah Elementary School this fall, the program is planned to expand into other elementary schools by spring.

Borah Elementary School’s STEAM club and its STEM club are made possible with the support of the Innovia Foundation.

In the 2019-20 academic year, GTS was present in 13 public schools through 18 programs.

This year, board chair Rebecca Smith said GTS has received requests from 12 schools for 40 STEM programs throughout and is working to raise funds to meet those needs.

With their growth, Smith said the organization is looking to hire a paid part-time executive director to continue their work to serve local students.

“We are so lucky to have this program at our school," Jackson said. “A multimodal approach to learning that involves activities kids already love, like art, just makes sense."

Further information on the program and the executive director position is available at


Coeur d'Alene High School junior Lynsey Overturf works with second grader Abel on Wednesday during STEAM club, a new afterschool program at Borah Elementary School that teaches math and science through art lessons and projects. HANNAH NEFF/Press


Fifteen-year-old Adeline Smith, co-developer of the STEAM club, works with third grader Korban at Borah Elementary School on Wednesday. The students used the Fibonacci swirl to create a parrot during the afterschool program. HANNAH NEFF/Press


Adeline Smith, a freshman at Lake City High School, taught a lesson on optical illusion on Wednesday during STEAM club, an afterschool program she co-developed. The program piloted at Borah Elementary School and is planned for expansion throughout the district this spring. HANNAH NEFF/Press

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