Remember Snowmageddon 2019? Many of us came up with creative ways to deal with lack of power, heat, water and other challenges in very creative ways. Dealing with simple and complex problems in our lives require problem-solving skills, design thinking, collaboration and critical thought processes known as STEAM Thinking.

Douglas County Partners for Student Success and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub are committed to connecting children, families and educators with resources to build the skills needed to identify problems and create innovative solutions that lead to social and economic stability. Steam Thinking throughout our community makes this possible.

STEAM Thinking acknowledges and emphasizes the interconnectedness of five separate disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering, Artistic Innovation and Mathematics. But STEAM Thinking also impacts our lives daily without getting tied to these traditional disciplines of study.

Children begin life STEAM-ready. They keenly observe the world around them, ready to connect ideas as they experiment, create, try new things and take things apart. Children learn as they paint, build, dance and explore. As adults, it is important for us to let children play and be STEAM thinkers on a daily basis without getting in their way.

STEAM Thinking can be used in the classroom to offer project-based learning that combines the various disciplines to engage visual and analytical thinking. This holistic approach prepares today’s students with the tools needed to navigate a complex world.

While STEAM Thinking begins with children, STEAM Thinking benefits grown adults too. At its heart, STEAM is founded on lifelong learning and problem solving. It’s up to each of us to identify problems, visualize solutions and improve those solutions.

To engage STEAM Thinking, begin by asking:

Who should I collaborate with to find an answer?

What problem am I trying to solve?

What details are the most important?

What do I think will happen?

Why is this like this?

Where can I find the resources needed to fix the problem?

When do I think a solution will be found?

How can I fix this problem?

How can this be done differently?

Use the questions above to help solve your dilemmas and pursue your wonderings and passions. For instance, instead of purchasing a new oven if the heating element stops working, order a replacement part and follow safety protocols. If your laptop screen cracks, research what you need to do to replace the screen yourself. If you want to paint the inside rooms of your house, use math to figure out exactly how much paint you’ll need.

These same questions can be used within work environments and community organizations to: collaborate and discover where to allocate resources; determine what’s needed to be more efficient; provide ingenious options.

There’s a sense of satisfaction connected to solving problems. Of course, there are many situations that require professionally trained people who have the education and tools needed to assist you. Reach out for help, whenever needed. After all, knowing who to ask is a key component in STEAM.

To learn more about Douglas County Partners for Student Success and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub, visit

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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