STEAM

As always, I get busy with the hands on parts of my life and run late doing things like…blogging. I told you this summer that I was brewing up a program to promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math).I had just secured a group of websites for “steamworks.” I had recently secured a handful of websites with the name “steamworks” and felt that I had to brand this and investigate learning practices.

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How many times have you heard the story about the Uncle that could fix anything? It always starts the same: “When Frank was young, he would take apart anything he got his hands on.” With a reply from the Uncle explaining that by deconstructing household items, gave him the knowledge and confidence to make/fix/repurpose things. This spurred me to tinker with the idea of “no instructions needed(R).”

I began by locating a venue while developing a two day learning program. The tie-in was “STEAM” so I chose a standardised model railroad element to introduce kids to the concept of STEAM while actually applying it. After hitting up some area businesses for funding, I put together a package for each participant that included a modular wooden base kit, an N-scale (1:160) railcar and some random details. Now, we could have set around and followed the instructions and worked as a class to get everything built at once, mount their track and off they went. But, what would they learn? As they opened their module kits, I collected everyone’s instruction sheets. I informed them that they would not need them and threw them away. Instead, they were provided with blueprints and standards for a final product. They immediately began to experiment and figure out how to build their base modules. As some finished, they assisted the other participants to keep the whole class moving forward. When their wooden modules were 20161112_113841complete, they had to choose from a random box of N-Scale track pieces to come up with the exact final measurements for their required module. All of a sudden, the class was waist deep in rulers, calculators, digital calipers, hammers and power drills. This is the magic that I live for! Skipping ahead, after the second class, parents had looks of amazement on their faces. I am not sure if it was the fact that their children were adept at using math and power tools or the fact that someone let me do this in public.

20161203_102328After class one, the kids got to choose paint and landscape details to take home with them while they prepared for the final reveal. During this time, I accepted a new position for a Children’s Museum because I did not have enough going on in life! More on that later…

On December 3rd, our Steamworks team reconvened at Blue Mound Memorial Library to set up their finished works while visitors came to see Mr. & Mrs. Claus. After twenty minutes of set-up and minor tweaking, the children had two steam engines pulling train cars around the 3′ x 7′ assembled layout. It is also of note that gender had no influence on the participants or the visitors. Everyone fought the same to get their time running each train.

I would like to send out a special thank you to our local supporters of the program:

Blue Mound Firefighters Association, Legacy Grain, Dippin’ Merv’s, Castle Trains & Treasures, Blue Mound Memorial Library. With you, these local children gained skills and confidence that can be used as they seek out their careers in a few years.

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