STEAMy summer of learning | Education | – –

Summer is the perfect time to incorporate STEAM education into students’ lives.

The Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, along with its partners, was excited to bring back the Expanding Horizons STEAM and Career & Technical Education (CTE) camps this summer. Plans are already in the works to provide even more opportunities next summer.

This past June middle and high school students gained hands-on experience about agriculture, power systems and robotics at the Expanding Horizons Camp held at Roseburg High School. Students rotated between the groups to learn about specific skills and also how the industries support each other. These opportunities showed students what is possible now and beyond high school.

The weeklong program was attended by 26 middle and 15 high school students as well as teachers, which included recent high school graduates.

Ira Wier, a biology and physics teacher at the high school as well as the Robotics Club advisor, led the robotics section. Several student teachers assisted him and provided one-on-one guidance in programming and building to prepare for end-of-the-week robotic wrestling and obstacle course competitions.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before,” said Mallory Altermatt, a high school sophomore. “Robotics is similar to using Legos but with technology. Our imaginations combine together to make something.”

The state-of-the-art automotive department was the perfect venue for Don Zell, a teacher in the high school’s professional-technical department, to expose students to power systems. Students tested electrical relay resistance, learned how to use tools and more. They worked independently and collaboratively and put together their own switchboards.

The agriculture section was taught by the high school’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, Angela Chenoweth. Students learned about livestock nutrition as well as the importance of raising animals in a humane way. Students taste tested grass and grain-fed with grass-fed beef, comparing and contrasting the textures, flavors and coloring. “The way we feed our animals impacts the quality of the meat,” says Chenoweth.

Sheri Carson, the division leader of Roseburg High School’s career and technical education program, said she wants students to be aware of the possibilities and to find their passions, and along the way they can gain skills needed that can lead to decent-paying jobs.

There’s still time to register students in grades 6-8 for an upcoming Expanding Horizons camp, Exploring the Trades. The camp will take place July 19-23 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Phoenix School in Roseburg.

Projects will include designing and building a sprinkler system, constructing a toolbox, garden box, birdhouse or obstacle course and framing and pouring a stepping stone. Teamwork, job safety and STEAM Thinking will all be part of the fun.

The success of the program is made possible by a partnership that includes Douglas County Partners for Student Success, the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, Roseburg Public Schools, Phoenix School, Douglas ESD, businesses and grants.

In addition to Expanding Horizons Camps, the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub hosted a hands-on activity at the Umpqua Valley Arts Association Summer Arts Festival. Families used cardboard and simple tools to build a town that takes care of the planet and its people incorporating the concepts: Think it, Try it, Fix it, Share it. Our community was also introduced to robotics skills by staff from the Boys & Girls Club and 3D printing presented by Phoenix School.

STEAM learning is also happening at the Boys & Girls Club, many of our county school districts, UCC Youth camps, Phoenix School Earth Connects, Umpqua Valley Arts Center, Douglas County Museum Camp Umpqua, our local libraries and many more.

Thank you Douglas County for engaging our youth in STEAM Thinking.

What I’ve shared is only a snapshot of STEAM education happening locally this summer. It’s an exciting time for students, their families and teachers.

Gwen Soderberg-Chase is the executive director of Douglas County Partners for Student Success and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub. She has been an educator in Douglas County for more than 40 years and is currently an associate professor of education at Umpqua Community College. She also serves on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Umpqua Valley.