Fifth annual STEAM-A-Palooza offers a gateway to innovation
The decision to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) can come early.
According to Audrell Samuels, senior subcontracts administrator for Lockheed Martin, the choice often comes before middle school. Students make an early decision about their skill level and their abilities, and it’s a choice that can very well steer the path of their lives.
“Studies have shown that by fourth grade, kids are usually deciding whether they’re good at math and related fields or not,” Samuels said. “We want to make sure that students in Cherry Creek Schools understand that there are so many careers tied to STEAM. You can be a mechanical engineer, you can be a systems engineer, you can be an administrator, like myself.”
Samuels and fellow STEAM professionals from Lockheed Martin were on hand at Grandview High School on Nov. 9 for the Fifth Annual STEAM-A-Palooza event, a community celebration rooted in an inclusive approach to education. The Lockheed Martin team was set up at displays in the Grandview cafeteria, where young students explored alien worlds via virtual reality helmets and others took their turns watching 3-D printers at work. In other spots across the school, hundreds of others were taking part in a broad range of events, from live animal displays to robotic competitions to interactive math games.
The event has grown by leaps and bounds since the first group of students, teachers and community members from across the Cherry Creek School District gathered at Grandview on a Saturday afternoon five years ago to celebrate all things STEAM. This year’s STEAM-A-Palooza was estimated to draw more than 3,300 people, including representatives from a wide array of local industries and businesses. The broad theme of the event aligns with the district’s emphasis on innovation, as well as the Instructional Excellence priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap to maintaining excellence well into the future.
Thanks to constant financial support from the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation and other sponsors, the initial vision for an interactive, community educational event has become a concrete reality.
“Each year of STEAM-A-Palooza has been a little different, but at its core, it’s always been about what we’re doing in Cherry Creek Schools around innovation,” said Ryan Remien, STEM and technology teacher at Altitude Elementary School. “What’s most exciting is that you get to see the direct result of Cherry Creek Schools Foundation grants in action,” he added, referring to annual Educator Initiative Grants made available through the Foundation. “Most of our vendors are actually teachers in CCSD sharing their knowledge based around STEAM.”
Students from across the district also have a direct stake in the final form and content of STEAM-A-Palooza, Remien added. This year, the opening ceremony saw CCSF Executive Director Jill Henden riding a hand-made hoverboard vehicle across the Grandview cafeteria, ending the journey by ceremonially knocking down a pyramid of plastic cups. “This is everything that the Foundation is about,” she said before taking the short ride.
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried echoed that sentiment, pointing to the Cherry Creek School District’s broader mission of connecting every single student with their pathway of purpose. At STEAM-A-Palooza, he said, students have the chance to gain firsthand experience in activities ranging from robotics to pastel drawing to zoology.
Providing every single student in CCSD multiple chances to gain firsthand experience in a broad array of disciplines is a key factor in preparing them for the future, whether it’s direct entrance into a career, college of the military. The hundreds of activities available at STEAM-A-Palooza went a long way in fulfilling that mission.
“Everything exists here. It’s a great opportunity for kids and families to come and find that inspiration,” Siegfried said. “This is part of the conversation about Future Forward, how we’re going to maintain excellence and meet the goals of all of our students. Our job is to prepare our kids for meaningful futures, and STEAM-A-Palooza is part of seeing that through.”