Whipping up esteem for STEAM

Grace Goodson hopes to stimulate young minds, assist educators

Grace Goodson, project coordinator with the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, is seen with some of the items available to educators from the Hub’s lending library.

As the daughter of a fish biologist and a research librarian, Grace Goodson enjoyed a childhood that was a fertile mixture of field experience and fact-checking. That blend makes her a perfect match for the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, which promotes education in science, technology, engineering and math (with artistic innovation integrating the other disciplines).

Since the end of July, Goodson has been working in overlapping positions designed to further STEAM learning for youth in our region. She is the project coordinator for Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, one of 10 STEM/STEAM hubs around the state. In addition, Goodson has been named the southwest regional coordinator for STEM Beyond School, a program that seeks to provide outstanding STEM programs to students across the state, especially those in areas with scarce resources.

The latter position is a work in progress, but at least part of its aim is to help educators at various sites connect with local STEM/STEAM hubs to get access to available programs and resources.
STEAM education is a natural habitat for Goodson, who was born and reared in the Willamette Valley. She recalls how much she enjoyed accompanying her father to fish hatcheries in her youth as part of Take Your Daughter to Work Day. As a field biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, her father worked hard to show his daughter that girls could do anything.

“We’d get to the fish hatchery and tag the fish, haul them in the water truck, release them downstream – there was a lot of hands-on,” Goodson recalled. “Through my dad’s field, I learned why it’s important to have trees near streams, and how water temperature and erosion are affected by environment.”

At the same time she was exposed to the wonders of the natural world, Goodson was learning the importance of sorting out the facts. Her mother worked as a research librarian for Oregon State University before becoming the district librarian at Philomath High School. When Goodson expressed a desire to get a horse, her mom brought home a stack of books about equines.
“She had me read the books and give her a presentation about what I would need – the time it would take, the money it would cost,” Goodson said.

Passion and practicality featured in Goodson’s professional decision-making as well. After graduating from Humboldt State University with a bachelor’s degree in child development and a focus in early education and family studies, she moved to Corvallis and worked as a teacher supervisor for HeadStart for three years. The school curriculum included components of STEAM education that she found beneficial for opening up young minds to scientific exploration.
Even something as simple as handing children popsicle sticks and encouraging them to build a bridge can develop innovating ways of thinking, she said.

“STEM is not just science. It’s experimentation. It’s developing critical thinking and step-by-step analysis,” Goodson said.

Though she has loved her classroom experience, Goodson’s current positions enable her to affect even more children. The Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub seeks to have a ripple effect on students in several ways. One is the creation of a lending library that can be used by local schools and community groups to hook up kids with STEAM education tools such as microscopes, oxygen sensors and solar car kits. Another example is arranging for a forestry engineer to visit a Douglas County classroom where fourth-graders are learning about jobs in the timber industry.

Goodson’s role as project coordinator of the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub will help the program continue to make progress as an initiative of Douglas County Partners for Student Success, according to DCPSS Executive Director Gwen Soderberg-Chase.

“Grace will be the lead in providing support to our out-of-school partners offering quality STEAM learning experiences under the banner ‘STEAM Beyond School,’” Soderberg-Chase said. “She brings a passion for STEAM education and, in particular, project-based learning to our work.”

Grace Goodson stands outside her office on the Umpqua Community College campus.

In addition to her work with the lending library, Goodson will work with the Douglas Education Service District to provide professional development for educators both in and out of schools.
Soderberg-Chase said Goodson’s background in early childhood education will also be a strong asset to in her new role, given that the Hub will be expanding its support to that area of education.

“As people get to know her, they will immediately recognize her relationship-building skills as an asset to expanding STEAM education opportunities across the Umpqua Valley.”

Contact Goodson at umpquavalleysteamhub@gmail.com or 541-740-0350 to find out how you can promote STEAM learning at your local school.


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