New space and high-tech equipment brings focus to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics

Dover, NH – (March 16, 2016) For the last few years, science, technology, engineering, art and math or STEAM, has been a hot topic when discussing early childhood education. However, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has been focused on all five areas since their inception 33 years ago. Now, with the opening of their STEAM Innovation Lab, through the generous sponsorship of Thermo Fisher Scientific, the Museum will have a dedicated space and high-tech equipment capable of supporting and engaging New Hampshire’s future innovators.

What is it?

When the STEAM Innovation Lab opens in mid-March, educators as well as children and families will be invited to use the lab to explore topics that focus on collaboration, critical thinking and making connections with the world outside the classroom. The space is designed as a prototype classroom of the future, with flexible furniture that can be reconfigured for a variety of tasks.

The room is equipped with a projector, iPads, materials for prototyping and designing as well as real tools and scientific equipment, including a 3-D printer and high-powered FLoid® Cell Imaging System provided by partner Thermo Fisher Scientific. Children can even learn how to code their own games on a “CMNH Game Maker” app designed specially for the Children’s Museum by local software developer James Terry. “We’ve already had kids ages 9 – 12 Beta test this Game Maker app in one of our camps and it was a huge success and resulted in some really fun and innovative games,” shared Jane Bard, President of the Children’s Museum of NH.

Expanding on a Well-Established Educator Resource

The Museum has a long history of engaging children in STEAM concepts: science through daily experiments; technology and engineering through Maker Clubs and the Dover Mini Maker Faire; math through their classes and camps; and art in practically everything. “The idea that STEAM concepts are out of reach for young children is false,” shared Jane Bard. “Here at CMNH we’ve been immersed in teaching these topics for many years and with the new STEAM Innovation Lab we are thrilled that we can grow as a resource to children, families and educators as we move into a more high-tech world.”

The STEAM Lab will certainly provide much needed support to NH educators. “We’ve consistently heard from teachers that they need support and training to assist them in teaching STEAM concepts” said Jane.

Fran Meffen, STEAM Academy Director at Dover Middle School, agrees. “The STEAM Innovation Lab (SIL) at the Children’s Museum of NH is a critical resource in providing immersion for children, teachers and community members into all things STEAM. STEAM project-based learning is central to the shift in education that is needed in schools to best meet the goal of having students college and career ready. The STEAM Innovation Lab will serve as an incubator for teachers, allowing them to bring their students on field trips where students will be active learners and the teachers can learn how to bring this experience back to their classrooms.”

Beyond the Classroom

While the STEAM Innovation Lab was created with an eye toward assisting NH’s educators, it is much more than that. The Museum will open the Lab to all museum guests weekly at scheduled times. “We’re planning a whole range of programs and activities that will utilize the space and equipment,” says Meredith Lamothe, Children’s Museum of NH Lead Educator. Storybook STEAM will focus on children as young as 3 years old, while STEAM Lab design challenges will be perfect for the entire family. The STEAM Saturday series will allow parents and children to collaboratively create things like ArtBots or Shrinky Dinks™ Sculptures. “It’s important to us that we continue to incorporate STEAM learning into our already fun and engaging museum environment,” says Lamothe “so that our visitors and members can see how this kind of learning is not just for a classroom setting!”

The Children’s Museum has a variety of programs in place to ensure that everyone who wants to visit the Museum, can, regardless of their economic situation. For example, families who present an EBT card at the door, can pay only $1 admission per person. This kind of all-inclusive access is crucial to leveling the playing field of educational privilege. “It is critical that we engage all children early in meaningful, participatory discovery in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts and create pathways for that learning to continue throughout their education,” said Lauren Provost, Director of Science & Technology Outreach at Dartmouth College. “The Dartmouth Office of Science & Technology Outreach is excited to support these efforts.”

An Eye on the Future

With professional development and teacher training programs with titles like “Next Generation CrossCutting Concepts: What Are They and How Do I Incorporate Them?,” free individual admission for teachers who present a teacher ID, and the free STEM video series created by the Museum and available online, there are many ways that educators can utilize the Children’s Museum as a resource. “The STEAM Innovation Lab represents our commitment to the students, teachers and families of New Hampshire in inspiring all children to become the next generation of innovators and problem solvers,” says Jane Bard.

With the opening of the STEAM Lab, the Museum has an eye on the future, and that is something that has made business as well as education leaders sit up and take notice. “This will help spark our youth’s interest in STEAM while offering educators opportunities to hone their teaching skills and enhance self-directed and engaged STEAM learning in the classroom,” shared Tom Raffio, Chair of the NH State Board of Education and Chair of the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education. “If children are consistently exposed to active STEAM teachings early in life and they enjoy participating in these classroom lessons, it will improve their capacity and hunger for learning. If children are enthusiastic about the STEAM disciplines, it will help to develop a pipeline of inspired and engaged innovators, and benefit the next generation of New Hampshire’s workforce.”

Fran Meffen agrees. “While this is just one classroom in the Museum its impact will spread organically across NH.”

STEAM Innovation Lab founding sponsors are Thermo Fisher Scientific, The Roger R. and Theresa A. Thompson Endowment Fund, Granite State Development Corporation and the Horne Family Foundation. To learn more about the STEAM Innovation Lab click here.