We have been on a sharp learning curve with this planning grant, but have had our most successful year yet. We have served over 1,500 students this year through our activities, some based on exploration of the various economies and possible structuring options available in Muskogee through our feasibility study. We personally have learned so much about running a science and arts center, engaging the community, and finding funding to continue our mission.
But we have really learned more about serving the citizens of our community, the children and families who are starving for child-friendly places to interact as a family in quality educational activities. These are virtually non-existent in our community. We have pockets of opportunity, such as the children’s camps and productions at Muskogee Little Theater and school-based learning, but they cannot offer what a brick and mortar children’s STEAM center can in the way of experiential activities. We have found that people want this and crave a place where they can have fun and also be intellectually stimulated. There is no such place like this in our community.
Aside from our statistical findings, anecdotal stories tell the need for this center best. The comments from our patrons on our surveys and at our programs have really been gratifying for our mission. Beyond a doubt, STEAM learning activities are life changing for many children, adults and families. One quote from a survey says:
“A passion for STEAM-related subjects fueled my hobbies growing up. If a thing like the Muskogee STEAM Center had been around while I was growing up, who knows how much my future would have been positively impacted! From lifelong experience, please keep this going! ‘If you build it, they will come’!”
Upon receiving her virtual STEAM kit, one little girl exclaimed, “Mom, look, we’re real scientists!” Nothing can duplicate the feeling of joy that STEAM studies can bring, as they encompass all the human elements of creativity found in art, science, technology and engineering.
Another grandmother commenting at TinkerFest said that her autistic grandson rarely participated in anything or got excited about much. His enthusiasm for STEAM studies, however, brought him out of his shell at TinkerFest and she was so grateful to see him “come alive” at the challenges. He actually spoke up publicly and interacted with other children at his table. These types of epiphanies are so important for the continued growth of individuals in our community and make lifelong impact.
Based on our study, we believe wholeheartedly that having such a center in Muskogee would be a game changer for our community. Many of our students have never been out of Muskogee, not even to Tulsa. Having such an enriching institution in our community can impact not just the individual, but the entire perception of our town. A STEAM Center could help all members of our community have a better life because of its potential to impact school attendance and graduation rate, provide all with a better understanding of science and knowledge in general, provide creative aging in place for grandparents with young grandchildren, spur more tourism and overall positive return on investment for the community.
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to explore the feasibility and possibility of having a STEAM Center here.