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Young Makers Menu


What is STEM learning?

At Hands On, STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is inherent in our exhibits, programs and Outdoor Discovery Center. The beautiful Arts & Parts Studio is the focal point of our MakeSpace, which offers programming to combine STEM learning with the Arts to create STEAM! Because of the nature of children to create and design, incorporating Arts into STEM is one of the most effective ways to increase enjoyment in STEAM subjects and thereby increase the learning! 

In Thurston County, as in communities around Washington, educators report that a growing number of children are entering kindergarten behind in basic math, self-direction and attentiveness, and the percentage of children who are behind is higher among at-risk populations. Across the nation this is even leading to a workforce crisis, and some of the museum’s largest technical business partners report a lack of qualified employees for STEM-related jobs.

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How Hands On enhances STEM learning

As the region’s early learning hub, Hands On has a unique opportunity to further integrate STEM into the early learning opportunities we already provide both in the museum and in the community. We are especially excited about engaging young children, families, early educators and caregivers in the burgeoning maker movement, as an accessible way to enhance STEAM learning in the early years. 

The Makers Education Initiative is specifically identified in the Federal 5-Year STEM Strategic Plan as a “promising initiative for engaging youth in STEM education.” That is because, by encouraging children to invent, design and use real tools, the Maker Movement taps into a child’s natural inclination to explore and promotes the power of learning by doing. “Making” also directly supports the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards, which emphasize critical thinking, creativity, and other 21st Century skills. Unfortunately there are virtually no maker spaces for children birth to 5, but through the Young Maker Program Hands On is working to change that locally for all families! 

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We're piloting Young Makers activities!

Thanks to a grant from Thrive by Five Washington, in addition to programming during regular business hours through the museum’s parenting and support programs we will be able to support parents and grandparents so they can encourage STEAM learning at home. We are exploring opportunities to reach out in a more significant way to preschool teachers and daycare providers, since studies reveal that many early childhood educators lack confidence in math and science, making it difficult to teach these subjects in the classroom. 

Look for Young Makers activities and designated learning spaces during events like Free Friday Nights. Don’t miss out on these hands-on, science and art-focused experiences for young children (birth to 5) as well as educational opportunities for parents and adults! If you have questions about Young Makers and how you can be part of our program, please email Amanda Wilkening, the Program Coordinator and lead Curriculum Developer, at awilkening(at)hocm.org.

Special thank you to the Aven Foundation for program support.

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Happy tinkering!


Program Coordinator/Educators:

Amanda Wilkening, MA, MBA (Art Studio & Visitor Engagement Manager and Lead Curriculum Developer)—As the Museum’s Artist/Maker-in-Residence, Amanda Wilkening has spent more than 20 years working with kids, art, science and education. As a Teaching Artist and Program Manager for the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA), in Oakland, CA she piloted a preschool Artist in Residency program that eventually grew to serve 20 preschools in the Bay area. She served as the Regional Manager for Science Adventures, a science enrichment company, where she became involved in the Maker Movement. Amanda holds graduate degrees in Museum Studies and Counseling Psychology (with a focus on children 2-5), and has experience using the arts with special needs early learners. A long-time proponent of combining arts with STEM, Amanda created and supervises our MakeSpace Program.

Susan Burnham, MiT (Preschool Educator and Museum Programs Manager)—Susan coordinates the Museum’s Field Trip, Parenting and At-Risk Support Programs and teaches camp and preschool. Susan holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and a BA in Studio Art, and served as an Artist-in-Residence in the public schools integrating science, language and visual arts.  She led school and teacher programs at the Tacoma Art Museum where she developed curriculum that linked exhibitions to mathematics, history and visual art.

Betsy DeBoer, MS (Preschool Educator and Curriculum Developer)—Betsy teaches both preschool and camps.  Betsy holds a BFA in Visual Arts and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute, which concluded with a research project that supports increasing children’s exploration of science-based exhibits in the museum.

Adrienne Testa (Educator, Visitor Engagement Coordinator & Offisites)— Adrienne has more than 10 years of experience facilitating science learning with children under the age of 10. She began her career teaching nature-based play on a farm in New York and later worked as a Master Teacher at The Museum of Life & Science in North Carolina. At HOCM she develops STEM programming around topics such as robotics, rocketry and nature.

Young Makers Initiative supported by US Bank, Aven Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services and Thrive Washington.

Check Out Upcoming Projects

Click here to check out upcoming Young Makers projects in our MakeSpace.