STEAM comes to the fair

Youngsters take a break from funnel cakes to develop critical thinking skills

With a range of interactive games and activities set up at August’s Douglas County Fair, Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub helped make sure local students had opportunities to put their STEAM thinking caps on over the summer.

Three-year-old Tessa kept busy at the STEAM booth in Douglas Hall categorizing plastic eggs by color as grandfather Charles Hemingway looked on.

“She found this area and it was like a beeline to it,” said Hemingway, who was visiting family from his home in Bend.

He believes encouraging STEAM education early on, particularly for girls, is important. Tessa is currently fascinated with helicopters, firetrucks and airplanes, Hemingway said.

“It gives them hands-on experience, it lets them interact with other kids,” he said of the fair booth. “I think it teaches them a lot of self-confidence and self-reliance.”

STEAM education is key to developing creative and critical thinking skills, and science, technology, engineering and math are four areas crucial to preparing students for success in the 21st century.

Gwen Soderberg-Chase, director of the local STEAM Hub and Douglas County Partners for Student Success, said she was excited to see so many young people drawn to the various STEAM-related activities at the fair this year. Activities also emphasized Career and Technical Education and complemented the nearby Roseburg High School CTE Department display area.

“CTE and STEAM opportunities go hand in hand when it comes to ensuring all students have the opportunity to explore their interests and find a pathway to future success in the workforce,” Soderberg-Chase said. “The two disciplines are also becoming more intertwined every day as the trades become more advanced and reliant on increasingly sophisticated technology.”

Some of the activities at the fair booths focused on robotics, and manufacturing and design. There were also various puzzles set out, intended to focus on critical thinking, spatial awareness and visualization skills.

Eleven-year-old Ruth created a Pegasus at the Makedo cardboard construction station, where kids could use the opened-ended toy construction system to let their imaginations run wild. Meanwhile 10-year-old Lillith created designs with geometric shapes in an array of colors.

Lillith’s grandmother, Sondra Matthews of Glide, said her family encouraged reading and STEAM thinking in her granddaughter from an early age.

“Once you get them started, then they just take off, they just keep advancing,” she said.

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