Educators team up to create STEAM Club

Educators team up to create STEAM Club
Posted on 09/07/2017
This is the image for the news article titled Educators team up to create STEAM Club Most people may think of their local library as just a place to borrow books, but under the leadership of Judy Beauchamp, the Miami Public Library is thinking outside the box by bringing science and technology into the typically quiet world of reading.

“Libraries are looking to redefine their role in the community, and designing creative programming and projects using critical thinking skills is one way to do this,” said Beauchamp, the librarian at Miami Public Library. “Nationally, the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are becoming a priority in education because of the growing number of jobs needing to be filled in these. As the children’s librarian at Miami Public Library, I felt that I needed the expertise of our local technology center for this project.”

Early in the summer, Beauchamp reached out to Northeast Tech’s Afton Campus where she immediately connected with Pre-Engineering Instructor Trishia Masterson. Northeast Tech offers a two-year Pre-Engineering Academy that includes courses in advanced math and physics, as well as engineering subjects. After a bit of brainstorming, the two educators came up with a plan of developing a STEAM Club for middle school students, specifically targeting girls. The “A” in the acronym signals the inclusion of the arts alongside the more technical fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Her background is more in the area of English, so she asked if I would be interested in helping out,” said Masterson. “Since this tied in perfectly with my goal of increasing the number of girls in our program, I told her I would love to. As the summer progressed and we started planning, we found we had similar ideas of including other schools and local industry and the concept grew from there.”

One of the key elements to the success of the club is having the supplies to provide hands-on activities for the participants, and Masterson is quick to credit Beauchamp’s efforts in obtaining grants for supplies.

“Judy has received grants for a variety of materials like Lego Mindstorm kits and LittleBits, and we will show the students how to use them to build and learn simple coding,” Masterson said. “We will also do activities that encourage the students to use creative problem solving and help them see in real life there often isn't one right answer, but instead, multiple great answers.”

While the two are still developing the programming, their vision for the club includes bi-monthly meetings at the Miami Public Library. Making sure the programming is creative and fun is the main goal, but members of the STEAM Club will also practice working together as a team, learn conflict resolution skills, and overcome stereotypes about who should be interested in STEAM.

“We aren't 100% sure yet if we will have exclusively girls – it will depend on numbers,” said Masterson.

Both women believe the STEAM Club will benefit the Ottawa County community, and they are hoping to see positive correlations between participation in the club and education and workforce development.

“This is a great way for kids to get interested in STEM fields of study,” Beauchamp said. “As educators we want to see our local youth excel, further their education and go on to fill or create jobs in our area. Northeast Tech is the perfect fit and we hope that a number of the kids involved in our programming will go on to enroll in pre-engineering classes.”

And as state funding continues to decline, both Masterson and Beauchamp are hopeful their STEAM Club can help bridge that gap.

“The STEM line item in the state education budget was zeroed out a few years ago, therefore, many of our smaller partner schools don't have the staff or resources to offer all the activities they would like to,” Masterson said. “We hope this club will offer an opportunity for us to support what the local schools are doing in their math and science classrooms and offer activities it would be difficult for smaller schools to provide.”

Initially, the STEAM Club will open to students in grades 5-10. The club will be a free activity offered through the Miami Public Library, and those interested in signing up should contact Judy Beauchamp at jbeauchamp@miami.lib.ok.us. Information about the STEAM Club will also be available at the library’s Festifall event scheduled for Sept. 9.

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