Aspen Science Center STEAM Room opens at Crystal Palace | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Science Center STEAM Room opens at Crystal Palace

Maxwell Stanahan tinkers at a project station in the Aspen Science Center's STEAM Room at The Crystal Palace Wednesday.

American kids are behind in math and science compared with many other developed nations, but a step inside Aspen's Crystal Palace over the next several weeks shows how innovative thinking can make learning fun.

The Aspen Science Center STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) Room was designed to serve as a creative, interactive space for children ages 4 to 18 to play and have fun with science.

The intention behind the STEAM Room's conception, however, is a bit more serious.

"The U.S. is increasingly falling behind other developing nations in terms of our students' aptitudes and interest in STEAM subjects," Aspen Science Center President David Houggy said. "In order for the U.S. to compete on the global stage, we need to be educating the best and brightest students and creating jobs in the U.S. where they can apply their talents."

The Aspen Science Center, with its mission to "advance the public understanding of science through lifelong discovery, exploration and education," opened the STEAM Room inside the old Crystal Palace space Feb. 14.

The STEAM Room — open to the public every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and every Wednesday from 1:30 to 6 p.m. until April 10 — will boast a dozen or more experimentation stations whereby children may play with toys either by themselves or with STEAM Room volunteers and staff activities.

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The experimentation station topics will change with time depending on popularity and availability, according to a statement from the Aspen Science Center.

"While schools strive to teach the fundamentals, including STEAM topics, they are increasingly time-constrained and increasingly required to spend their time teaching to test standards," Houggy said.

This leaves less time for exploration and generating excitement around STEAM, which is where the Aspen Science Center comes in, he said.

The center welcomes local elementary, middle and high school classes to visit the center on field trips during the week — which leads to another major benefit of the STEAM Room, as Houggy pointed out.

"We can create resources that can be shared by many schools," Houggy said, "making it more cost-effective than each school developing their own resources."

In addition to the experimentation stations, the STEAM Room will host a variety of other activities and competitions while it is open.

Contests may include challenges such as who can build the strongest bridge or who can keep a paper airplane in the air for the longest amount of time.

"With the STEAM Room, we're able augment what the school's work by offering a space for children to discover the fun and joy of science and give them motivation to learn the harder parts in school," Houggy said.

Aspen Science Center operations manager Skippy Mesirow said, "So far, our guests just won't leave, and many say they will be back many, many times."

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