Children’s Welcomes the STEAM Program

chp2

TJ enjoying the first STEAM program at Children’s Hospital.

Last week, teachers from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh were at the hospital to present the first in a series of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) inspired lessons called “Exploring Electricity!” In the lesson, the children transform everyday items into unique inventions using motors and batteries.

These programs will be presented on a regular basis by the Children’s  Museum of Pittsburgh Makeshop. The programs are being sponsored through a grant from the Matt’s Maker Fund established at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC by our family to honor our son Matt, who passed away from cancer in 2002 at the hospital. Matt loved technology and creating things. Matt’s Maker Space is dedicated to bringing the maker movement to the hospital and to children who love to make, play, and design!

The Maker movement is a shift in the way that kids are learning today. Making involves a way of learning that incorporates new technology, experiential learning, and our basic desire as humans to create something. Many of us fondly remember wood shop or sewing class. Sadly these classes are not part of many school curriculums any more. However, some students are lucky enough to have a school where they are exposed to “making” on a regular basis. We know that students learn better and invest themselves in learning when it’s meaningful and interesting.

Making allows classrooms to become more child focused. Making encourages collaborative learning. Making allows children to problem solve and create their own solutions to problems where there are no right or wrong answers. It is a breath of fresh air in a world of sitting down, taking standardized tests and all learning in the same way. Making recognizes that our experiences affect our knowledge and that we can learn by doing…creating…failing…trying again and sharing our knowledge with others.

The Matt’s Maker Space and STEAM projects at Children’s Hospital are quite new and unique to a hospital environment. At Children’s Hospital, the Creative and Expressive Arts Therapy program helps even the youngest patients cope and communicate. STEAM is just one more area where the hospital will provide an opportunity for the children to get beyond their illnesses and create. Making provides an opportunity for patients to combine technical knowledge, creativity, and problem solving skills and have fun doing it!

I know our son would have been a “maker.” His room was filled with the latest Legos, science experiment books, puzzles and transformers that became something else. Always curious, he wanted to know how things were made. And he spent many hours figuring out how to put something together that he had designed.  Matt also spent over nine months inpatient at Children’s Hospital. The “craft cart” would come around to his room and he would look at it but not seeing any Legos, he would allow it to pass by.  It really wasn’t that “cool” for a 12-year-old boy to do crafts with his mom.

Our dream is that Matt’s Maker Space and the STEAM effort at Children’s Hospital will speak to the kind of kid, like Matt, who may not want to do an art project or sing a song but who really wants to create something.  That dream will be a reality soon.

To support STEAM programming at Children’s, please visit www.givetochildrens.org.