Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) programs are all the rage these days. Our kids are learning to code video games, build robots and design the technology of the future.
Schools are integrating STEAM components into curricula at a rapid pace and at earlier ages all the time.
Outside of school kids are encouraged to participate in after-school enrichment programs, drop-in STEAM play events, and clubs and camps. From 3D printing at the library to robot-builds at local museums and play places, kids can build their technology skills just about anywhere.
But why should the kids have all the fun? While you might not be ready to switch careers and become a video game designer or architect, you can join your kids in these STEAM activities and learn a thing or two along the way.
Here are six places to hop on the family STEAM train. . . .
National Building Museum
Washington, D.C.; go.nbm.org
The National Building Museum caters to families by having family-friendly material in each of its permanent exhibits. Don’t
miss the Play Work Build exhibit, where parents and kids can play together in the hands-on block area, then check out the architectural toy collection, and the
Building Zone area for the littlest visitors. In addition to its permanent exhibits, the Building Museum schedules regular Family Afternoon participatory workshops with seasonal themes, and provides (for a small fee) Tool Kits for families to enhance their visit with activities to partake in along the way. This month the museum is holding a LEGO build family workshop on how to make strong, tall towers, and design buildings that you think should be added to the D.C. skyline.
Baltimore Museum of Industry
The Baltimore Museum of Industry celebrates innovations in technology, the building of Baltimore and the work that gets the job done. Housed in an 1860s oyster cannery on the Baltimore waterfront, the museum has fun exhibits and demonstrations, plus hands-on activities for kids and their parents.
Each week the preschool set can join in the Wee Workers program, which engages kids through stories, songs, crafts and specially themed tours. Every Saturday, families can work together in the Weekend Workers series that engage kids and parents in challenges like designing your own board game, working with stained glass and even making your own marble roller coaster.
And, through 2019, you can get in on the digital fun by checking out the museum’s Video Game Wizards exhibit, in which you can design and play your own video game as you progress through the exhibit.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
St. Michaels; cbmm.org
Much of what you’ll learn at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum will be about the history of the Chesapeake and those who make a living on its shores. If you’re from a boating family no doubt you’ll want to learn all about boatbuilding in a hands-on fashion. The museum offers several Family Boatshop weekends throughout the year, in which museum shipwrights walk you and an accompanying child (ages 10 and older) create woodworking projects like model ships, or decorative lights for the home.
Kids are also welcome to participate in the museum’s Rising Tide program, aimed at kids in grades six through nine, which “teaches students basic boatbuilding and woodworking skills in a welcoming, relaxed environment.” It includes boatbuilding courses for kids twice a week, as well workshops that cover topics from model shipbuilding to canvas painting, and holiday gift workshops.
Maryland Science Center
While this is an obvious choice for general learning about all things science, the Science Center is constantly coming up with new and exciting ways for you and the kids to learn about the world. This summer it opened two new permanent exhibits, a water play area and “Science Aglow.” There families can explore the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with fun equipment to explore, including a thermal camera, zoetrope, and phosphorescent shadow wall. Kids can get hands-on, by viewing and manipulating the hidden electrons that fly through the universe when they’re listening to music, watching TV, or microwaving popcorn.
Follow your local library’s schedule carefully, because there are bound to be STEAM activities you can do with your child—from roller coaster physics to LEGO building days to 3D printing lessons and more. Keep your eyes out at your branch for Family STEAM activities through Challenge Island—an enrichment company (challenge-island.com) that brings STEAM events to local schools and libraries. The company puts on Family Challenge nights where you and your kids can band together to tackle a STEAM related challenge against other families.
The Kid Museum is open on weekends to the public (during the week it caters to school groups and preschool Mini-Maker workshops) and hosts weekend Maker Studios and open-building sessions, all led by maker educators and apprentices. Weekend Maker Studios projects include workshops like 3D printing, turning 2D drawings into 3D objects, intro to woodworking tools, building classic games, 3D marble maze building . . . and the list goes on.Though most of these programs are just for kids, you can join in at the museum’s annual KidFest event, September 23 in Silver Spring. There you’ll find Kid Ted Talks, hands-on building fun, robotics, building activities and a ton of other kid-friendly hands-on fun opportunities.
STEAM Fair Maryland
Saturday, Sept. 29; Chesapeake Family Life’s very own STEAM Fair will have fun activities for the whole family, demonstrations, a paper airplane contest, art contest and a whole lot more. Annapolis Area Christian School, 11am-3pm. steammaryland.com