STEAM Centers first came about when a group of local people got together in January 2017 to discuss the perceived lack of activities for children in early childhood. After that first meeting, a short community survey was created and within two weeks over 100 responses were gathered. Those responses supported what the committee saw, that in our local community, activities for younger children were limited in scope, accessibility, and developmental appropriateness as reported by parents and caregivers. It was determined at this time that it would fill a need within Tuscarawas County to move forward, and STEAM Centers was formed.
Incorporated in February 2017, and receiving 501(c)3 status in March 2017, STEAM Centers has been working to bring awareness and access to play in community-based settings since. In roughly 18 months of Pop-Ups, we have had over 1000 children come play with us, the majority of which fall within our target age of 2-6 years. Providing activities that stimulate fine and gross motor development, social learning skills, and problem-solving abilities, children are being exposed to learning in a self-driven manner that encourages personal motivation and buy-in. Our approach is to provide the activities and environment, and let kids take the lead according to their strengths and interests. Operating in a community-based setting, we have been able to minimize lack of access by bringing the activities to the where families gather. Many of our exhibits are created to be manipulated in a variety of ways, so kids along the developmental spectrum are able to play like they want to.
We are very pleased and excited by the support and response we have received from the community. But we have reached our limit as organization with our current infrastructure. To date, we have been volunteer-led and run and financed from irregular donations from our community and the generosity of our board members. As we wrap up our Pop-Up season in 2018, we are moving forward to start building capacity and sustainability for our ultimate goal of opening a permanent Children’s Museum to serve Tuscarawas County, the surrounding counties, and families visiting our region.
Take some time to read more about our vision and approach, meet our board, and check out our sponsors and community partners. We know there is a place for you within STEAM Centers, whether its bringing the kids to an event, volunteering your time and skills, becoming a sponsor, or supporting us within the community. When kids are given the opportunity to play, they learn and flourish, and that truly grows our community.