Investigating the science of play
Thank you so much for supporting Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada!
This support is important because we are increasingly realizing that a background in STEM-related programming is crucial for education, employment and career advancement. Your help enables us to offer STEAM Ahead in diverse communities across Canada. STEAM Ahead includes alternative extracurricular opportunities for children and youth to engage in STEM-related programming and activities.
We are pleased to share with you a story about STEAM Ahead from the Charlotte County Club in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
We would like to take this time to wish you a very happy holiday season.
Investigating the science of play
The next Alexander Graham Bell or Roberta Bondar may be busy at play at your local Boys and Girls Club.
The spark that inspires a child to think both scientifically and creatively is what fuels the STEAM Ahead program, sponsored by Fidelity Investments in partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. Geared towards 7 to 13 year olds, the program promotes hands-on and experiential STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning that’s both fun and inspiring.
For the kids at Boys & Girls Club of Charlotte County in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, it means rolling up their sleeves to build simple machines using engineering principles like levers, pulleys, reciprocating motion, kinetic energy,and projectiles.
“The program is broken down into 12 different projects,” says Ashley Hamilton, Charlotte County’s Outreach Coordinator. “Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada sends us kits so that the kids can build something new every week. It’s cool because they get to use things like screwdrivers and wire clamps and other tools they are not usually exposed to.”
Using the STEAM Ahead manual, facilitators provide a background story and demonstration to introduce the activity, and then encourage young people to solve the problem through discussions and brainstorming.
To engage different learning styles, the program mixes visual, auditory, and hands-on activities. And once the project is complete, bonus activities motivate participants to put their new knowledge to the test using everyday objects.
What is especially gratifying for Club staff is that the program attracts both boys and girls, which helps to break down commonly-held stereotypes.
“It’s great to see the kids get involved,” notes Ashley. “Sometimes we even see the younger kids teaching the older ones, if they happen to have a good engineering eye for the task at hand.”
Most importantly, the projects are a hit with the participants.
“The kids love them all,” says Ashley. “They built a zip-line racer, another one called ‘Unicycle Art,’ which is a little clown on a unicycle, and a wooden launcher.”
“They had a lot of fun launching things,” she says with a laugh, “but they also learned about physics, which is wonderful.”
With clowns on unicycles, helicopters, and projectiles flying about, parents who visit the Club might wonder about the learning taking place. However, Ashley says that definitely isn’t the case.
“We did a survey at the end of the latest session and some of the comments from the parents were that they loved the diversity of the program and that we are showing kids the science behind toys.”