Investigate our world during STEAM Month

Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub highlights STEM disciplines in May

Astrophysicist, author and speaker Neil deGrasse Tyson has been inspiring people of all ages for decades about the wonders of science. His common-sense comments on the subject are so numerous that they’d fill a stack of quote-a-day desk calendars.

Tyson’s words are especially meaningful at this time of year, and I’ll explain that in a moment.

If you go to YouTube and type in his full name followed by “scientific literacy,” you’ll find a great three-minute video that sums up for me why Tyson is a great educator. Here’s part of what he has to say:

“When you’re a kid, you’re born a scientist. What does a scientist do? We look up and say, ‘I wonder what that is? Let me go find out. Let me poke it. Let me turn it around.’ … Kids explor(e) their environment through experimentation.”    

Poking and turning and exploring the world around us is important all year long. But especially now, as STEM Week Oregon approaches.

STEM Week is an annual statewide observance to raise awareness, celebrate and engage in activities involving science, technology, engineering and math. It’s usually held during the first week of May.

Here in Douglas County, we expand the focus to all of May and call it STEAM Month, because it’s celebrated by the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub. (The ‘A’ stands for artistic innovation, which integrates all the STEM disciplines.) During May, we will be highlighting countywide opportunities to engage youth and their families in quality STEAM learning.


In fact, the Umpqua Valley gets a jump-start on STEAM Month by promoting a couple of April 30 gatherings that launch STEAM Month. One of our partners, the YMCA of Douglas County, is hosting Healthy Kids Day, taking place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the YMCA in Roseburg. The other is Celebrate Children, co-sponsored by the Child Abuse Prevention Partnership of Douglas County and Healthy Families of Douglas County. Celebrate Children takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wildlife Safari in Winston. Admission is free to both events.

Other STEAM-related events in May include the 2016 Douglas County School Forestry Tour, taking place May 10-13 at the Douglas County Glide Educational Forest (behind the Glide Transfer Station), and the May 21 Spring Fling Childcare Training at Umpqua Community College. The forestry tour is a 55-year tradition for fifth-graders to interact with industry experts at seven different learning stations. Spring Fling will introduce child care providers to STEAM learning experiences they can take back to their care environments. It’s never too early to bring STEAM into the lives of children!

The Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub is collecting information on other STEAM education events taking place in May, and will be publishing a roundup at If you’d like your activity included, please send an email with the date, time, contact information and a short description to the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub at

In addition, the STEAM Hub is looking ahead to summer STEAM camps and will be promoting registration during the month of May. Keep an eye on our website and the Douglas County Partners for Student Success/Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub Facebook page for more news. And remember … be that essential adult in the lives of our youth!


Gwen Soderberg-Chase is the executive director of Douglas County Partners for Student Success, She has been an educator in Douglas County for 38 years. She also serves on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Umpqua Valley and SMART.

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