STEAM Night on March 5 was a hit with Skyway Elementary School students seeking to explore new artistic and scientific frontiers.
STEAM combines Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math disciplines through which students engage in experiential learning, problem-solving and working through creative processes. Including art along with STEM core subjects is thought to be essential for encouraging students’ inquiry, and creative and critical analytical thinking.
Fifth-grade teacher Jami Seabolt created the family-friendly STEAM Night to inspire student interest in all things science. More than 138 students and 97 families attended the third annual event.
“My goal is to provide free STEAM enrichment for students. The first two years we had about 110 students, not including adults, attend. Last year about one-third of our school population came,” Seabolt said.
Participating vendors included The Broadmoor, Challenger Learning Center, CMJHS Creek Club, Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, Colorado Springs Utilities and the Girl Scouts of America.
LEGO Simple machines, Makedo kits, School District 12 LEGO Robotics Team, Spheros Spark Robots, 3D Pens and the U.S. Air Force Academy STEM Outreach program were popular with students.
There was no shortage of creativity and imagination at the event, with projects ranging from simple but imaginative cardboard creations to more complex water-conductivity experiments. Sphero, a robotic ball controlled through tough a smartphone or tablet, also sparked interest with youngsters.
However, it was the Star Lab Planetarium, with its mysterious solar system and star-studded universe that stole the show. “The biggest hit of the night was the planetarium. I don’t have enough time to get everyone through it. I got 60 people in and there were some sad people when they couldn’t get in,” Seabolt said.
Seabolt hopes to include the planetarium in Skyway’s annual Barn Dance, she said. “People are just so excited about it,” Seabolt said.
STEAM-oriented door prizes also were available. “Our Parent Teacher Organization gives amazing door prizes to families as fun activities to share beyond our night,” Seabolt said.
According to Seabolt, research studies show that children lose interest in STEAM careers by the time they reach age 10 and that statistics are higher for girls. Seabolt wants to change that.
“I started this event with the support of my amazing Parent Teacher Organization and Skyway staff. I am hopeful to reach kids who love these topics or those who didn’t know much about these topics. Research says kids lose interest in Science and Math by fifth grade, especially girls. My goal is to try to put a stop to that, at least, at my school,” Seabolt said.
Seabolt also is involved in Colorado Association of Science Teachers, through which she has learned there is a lack of STEAM outreach to elementary students. Seabolt wants to reach as many of these youngsters as possible, and to help them realize the STEAM opportunities available to them as activities and careers, she said.
“My goal is to give our students an experience where they can experience all of these topics in one place, close to home and with a trusted adult. All of vendors who are attending know we are a Title 1 school and our kids don’t usually get to experience these types of events,” Seabolt said.
Michael Sartori, superintendent of The Broadmoor Gold East Course, contacted Seabolt about supporting Skyway on STEAM Night, she said.
“I am super excited to have The Broadmoor join STEAM Night. I love Michael’s vision and his commitment to educating kids about STEAM. He found a field trip for our fifth grade to attend where he will teach my class about water conservation, and designing and building golf courses,” Seabolt said.
Seabolt hopes more families take advantage of the endless possibilities STEAM Night has to offer, she said. Some past activities include building the tallest sculpture, the largest tower that can hold a tennis ball and a boat that can support the heaviest amount of pennies. STEAM Night is budget-friendly and requires little preparation.
“Many vendors give information about their programs to families and these opportunities are sometimes free or discounted. Many families don’t even know these opportunities are out there,” Seabolt said.
Student participation and reaction is the most rewarding aspect of holding the event, Seabolt said.
“When they (students) come out of the planetarium or are playing with the robots, they are super excited. I want to make it an event kids talk about and look forward to every year.”