Local students with autism learn STEAM skills

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Jaden Brake, 8, left, and Caitlyn Kolopajlo, 11, right, watch to see how many pennies a beetle is able to pull. The activity at the first annual Story of Autism STEAM Day on Wednesday allowed students to learn about physics by calculating pulling power.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Kayleen Petrovia)

—-Marysville Early College High School recently teamed up with a local organization in an effort to teach STEAM skills to every student, including children with autism.
The Story of Autism, a nonprofit based in Marysville, hosted the first annual Summer STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Day on Wednesday.
Ken Chaffin, principal at ECHS, said the event demonstrated how every student can get involved with the STEAM field.
“Early College High School is a school for all kids, period,” he said.
Christopher Dillon, founder of The Story of Autism and single-parent to a child on the autism spectrum, said events like STEAM Day help to create a community of support for families like his.
“I started this organization because I realized through my own struggles that I can’t be the only one who’s struggling through this,” Dillon said.
The event featured several stations with STEAM-based activities for the children to engage with. At each station, students with learning disabilities, their friends and ECHS students teamed up to complete the challenges.
One station asked children to compete in a structure design challenge in which they were given 50 plastic straws and six feet of tape. Whichever team could construct the tallest structure that could support a tennis ball for 60 seconds would win a set of Lego blocks.
At another station, students were able to use construction paper and tape to build a rocket. They were then able to attach a straw to it and use an inflated balloon to propel it.
Children also got to experiment with living animals. To learn how to calculate pulling power, teams tied strings to beetles that allowed the bugs to pull a petri dish behind them. Students then piled pennies in the dishes to see just how strong the beetles were.
Aside from science and math, students were able to channel their artistic sides. During one activity, they learned how to make their own paint with baking soda, water and food coloring. After they made their own supplies, they painted images that they could splatter by spraying with vinegar.
Marysville Mayor J. R. Rausch and Polly Jordan, wife of Congressman Jim Jordan, were also present at the event to show their support.
Rausch said he was excited to see how children in Union County will contribute to the innovation that is taking place in the region.
“Marysville is known around the world for what we’re doing in this area,” he said.
Regardless of learning abilities, Chaffin said allowing children to get involved with STEAM prepares them for making an impact in the future.
“What (STEAM) really is, is giving you the tools to think and problem solve,” he said. “It’s about becoming a thinker and doing really cool things that change the world.”



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