Douglas County Partners for Student Success (DCPSS) is committed to providing children, families and educators quality learning opportunities as well as supporting all youth to create purposeful plans for their future. We connect people with resources to build the skills needed to identify problems, visualize and create innovative solutions.

The Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub sits under the umbrella of DCPSS and offers an approach to teaching and lifelong learning that emphasizes the natural interconnectedness of five separate STEAM disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering, Artistic Innovation and Mathematics. Becoming STEAM Thinkers (problem-solvers, innovators, critical thinkers and collaborative team players) is seen as a necessary goal that begins in early childhood education.

Childhood is the perfect time to introduce young minds with ways to communicate to help support growing vocabularies, critical thinking and problem solving. Studies have shown that introducing children to STEAM education in early childhood creates a foundation for a future of STEAM learning.

Yimisa’ Preschool Promise in Myrtle Creek has embraced STEAM education.

Last year, Stefanie Arents, the head teacher at the school attended a virtual conference we hosted and learned about STEAM-related learning methods and materials available via the STEAM Hub Lending Library.

Arents quickly realized that STEAM learning gives children the opportunity to take the time needed with hands-on exploration to find answers while also being exposed to interdisciplinary connections such as engineering, literacy, art and science.

Arents students recently studied sounds by figuring out what things make sounds and what things don’t make sounds. The students experimented with cotton balls, paper clips, blocks and more.

“They were so involved and began engaging with each other to work out problems,” said Arents. She looks forward to continuing to incorporate STEAM in her students’ curriculum.

If you’re an early learning teacher in Douglas County and looking for ways to expand your learning resources, browse the user-friendly Resource Lending Library web-based platform at www.umpquasteamhub.org and sign up for a free teacher account. You may borrow STEAM-related equipment such as an egg incubator, gear sets, building blocks, magnifying glasses and more. The library offers resources for students of all ages. Equipment is sanitized between uses.

Recently Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, Family Resource Center, Head Start and Preschool Promise came together to create 500 STEAM-learning kits that include magnifying glasses, measuring cups, sorting and counting tools, along with how-to-guides. Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub also provides ongoing collaborative support to Care Connections & Education, an agency that empowers child care providers to excel in their profession through educational opportunities on best practices, exploration of career pathways and connection with families needing care. Additionally, DPCSS works with the child care providers at Maple Corner Montessori on the Umpqua Community College campus.

From August 16-20 we’re offering in-person and virtual professional learning opportunities at our STEAM Summer Institute 2021: STEAM Thinking for All. A variety of courses include how to incorporate STEAM into education. One of the sessions will be taught by Stefanie Arents. For more information and to register, visit www.dcpss.org/summerinstitute.

It’s an exciting time to be an early childhood educator, and we’re here to offer support and inspiration!

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.

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