Oh Wow Introduces ‘STREAM’ Learning for Silly Science Sunday

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — You may have heard of STEM and STEAM, but Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology is introducing STREAM learning for the 11th annual Silly Science Sunday this weekend.

Reading and Recreation co-represent the R in the ever-changing acronym – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. As the annual festival grows, Oh Wow works to introduce new exhibits and opportunities for learning each year, says Colleen Ruby, director of visitor services.

“It’s great to have new experiences, new things for the kids to come and experience when they come down to the festival,” Ruby says. “We hope that it is as exciting for them as it is for us.”

The recreation portion of Sunday’s event will be hosted by Mill Creek MetroParks, which will have a portable erosion table exhibit, she says. The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County will have its mobile Pop Up Library on hand for the reading exhibit.

The library has participated in the festival for the past five or six years, says its learning and literacy manager, Cindy Beach. This year, Kristy Taylor and Mike Ludwick from its community engagement department will distribute Take-and-Make STEM activity kits, which families can take home and do, she says.

Kristy Taylor and Mike Ludwick from the Public Library’s community engagement department will be on-hand with the Pop-Up Library.

The kits include ideas on how to explore those lessons further. The idea, Beach says, is to promote the library as the place where students can continue their research after completing the hands-on activities using all of its resources, including the STEM area in the new family engagement area at the downtown branch.

“There are a lot of things that can be learned through reading,” Beach says. “If their interest is sparked, they can come to the library and dive in and find other things and expand on what they’ve learned.”

The mobile unit will also have books and other materials residents can check out, and will be signing up residents for library cards if they need them.

Including reading as a central part of STREAM is important, she says. At a time when so much information is shared over the internet – not all of it credible – the library is “that intermediary to help people get to authentic, helpful information,” she says.

Mill Creek’s erosion table fits in with the STREAM theme, and will be part of a number of activities Educator Andrew Starr has planned for the day, all focusing on the dynamics of streams.

“It makes people aware of the different methods of controlling water,” Starr says. “And how erosion is coming into play in the parks and affecting people.”

Other stream-related activities include using microscopes to view pieces of sticks and leaves that have been submerged in water to learn how erosion affects them, as well as aquatic life, such as crawfish and mayflies, he says. Attendees will also learn how to spot different animal footprints commonly found along the banks of streams.

“It’s really neat to see all those animals while you’re exploring,” he says.

Mill Creek looks to incorporate STREAM education in more of its own efforts, particularly when the Ford Nature Center reopens, he says. Engineering and technology can be covered when explaining how beavers build dams, and using all of the body’s senses applies to the arts, he says.

“It’s very important not just for kids but for the public to understand all the aspects of STREAM,” he says. “It helps the audience to stay captivated and engaged.”

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Gallery includes images of previous Silly Science Sunday events (Images: Oh Wow Children’s Center).

In addition to reading and recreation, Oh Wow welcomes new sponsors and exhibitors to this year’s event, Ruby says. Some new sponsors this year include Ursuline High School, Covelli Enterprises, Associated School Employees Credit Union, Pizza Joe’s and some manufacturers who are promoting STEM careers.

“It’s really exciting to get some new companies behind us to promote everything that we’re trying to promote down here,” she says.

Among those efforts include exposing young people to local manufacturing career paths, she says. Exhibits by the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, Brite Energy Innovators and other area companies will showcase everything from jobs in metal forming and rolling to batteries being produced at Ultium Cells LLC in Lordstown, she says.

“So there’s all kinds of different experiences that we’ve never had before,” she says. “It’s going to be something that kids who maybe if they enjoy the experience, it might be something that they’ll be interested in doing for a career later on.”

This is the second year the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition has participated in Silly Science Sunday, says Allison Engstrom, project manager at MVMC. Coalition members exhibiting at the event will include ClarkDietrich and City Machine Technologies in the manufacturing tent. KTSDI Inc. will be volunteering at the MVMC exhibit, where kids will learn how to make a paper pinwheel to take home.

“Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition is very excited to participate in Silly Science Sunday,” Engstrom says. “We recognize the importance of exposing children to STEM activities from an early age. Our manufacturers are very supportive of MVMC’s youth outreach efforts, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to chat with local kids (and their parents) about manufacturing and the great career opportunities that exist in our community.”

Other exhibitors include Youngstown State University College of STEM, YWCA Mahoning Valley, Solar Education Project, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District, America Makes, the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, Valley STEM, Associated School Employees Credit Union, Green Team, Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, Trumbull Career and Technical Center, SMARTS and more.

The center has rented 11 tents for outdoor exhibitors, and another two or three will be inside the museum itself. Per COVID guidelines, the inside of the museum will be limited to about 400.

“With the COVID protocols, we wanted to have as much outside as we possibly could,” Ruby says. “We’re going to be limiting the number of people that are going to be allowed inside the facility, and we’re asking everyone to follow CDC guidelines by wearing a mask when they’re here … and trying to stay six feet away from everybody else.”

In years past, some 4,000 to 5,000 individuals from the five-county region and beyond – including Stark and Summit counties in Ohio – have attended the festival throughout the day. The goal this year is about 3,000, “but you never know what to expect,” she says. “We could exceed that.”

The event is free and will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 19 downtown at 15 Central Square. Streets will be closed from Boardman Street to Commerce Street and from Phelps Street to Market Street, so residents can safely explore the exhibits outside. Food vendors on hand will include OH Donuts, One Hot Cookie and G&G Concessions.

Oh Wow branded merchandise will be on sale for 25% off. Members will receive a 35% discount. The center will also be selling Boscov’s Charity Day passes for $5. The charity day is scheduled for Oct. 7 at the Eastwood Mall.

In addition to the exhibits, Ruby invites residents to bring yellow items to add to the center’s Shine Wall. Items currently on the wall include yellow rubber duckies, yellow telephone, yellow checkers and a giant yellow street light.

“Anything yellow,” she says. “Anything that we can hang on the wall that would be safe for the kids.”

The wall is part of the House of Shine exhibit, which is about promoting positive energy, she says.

“It’s all about the glow and the shine that’s within you,” she says. “And how you can show that to the community.”

Pictured at top: Colleen Ruby, director of visitor services at Oh Wow, stands by the museum’s Shine wall.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.