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How Does STEAM Help Pediatric Cancer Patients and Their Families?

By Beth Baker, STEAM Curriculum Coordinator 


What is STEAM? 

At the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer (AHF), we weave educational opportunities into our Family Service Programming. One way we do this is through our STEAM clubs. AHF’s STEAM Club provides educational opportunities that are aligned with Tennessee state standards in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Activities follow a theme, and records are kept to ensure children are following a curriculum and achieving a mastery of standards. As a form of Diversionary Therapy, or the use of recreation or play as an addition to treatment, STEAM activities are another great resource that AHF offers. And like all services at AHF, STEAM Clubs are 100%-free and offered to affected patients and their siblings!


The disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering Art and Math are all interrelated and should be experienced collectively.


By definition, STEAM means:

Science: The study of nature and the behavior of natural things.

Technology: Using tools and methods to achieve goals.

Engineering: The application of knowledge to overcome obstacles.

Art: The application of skill or imagination to express ideas.

Mathematics: The study of structure and space.


STEAM in Action: Newton’s Laws of Motion  

Recently, we were able to include a STEAM lesson about Newton’s Laws of Motion in the curriculum at our December Parents Day Out. This lesson reached three different groups of students, divided by age.


The lesson began with an introduction, where a balloon was inflated using a hand pump and then released. The balloon was inflated with varying amounts of air: three pumps, 10 pumps, 20 pumps and finally, 30 pumps. The students explained what they observed during the demonstration and then were able to connect their observations to Newton's third law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”



This knowledge was applied to our elf-themed activity. Each student built a small elf using pipe cleaners and a small wooden bead. Then they used a paper boat to design a sleigh that included a seatbelt to secure their elf. The sleigh was attached to a balloon powered zip line, which provided transportation. Young students were able to understand that the more air you pump into the balloon, the farther down the zip line the balloon will propel the elf.



Next, Newton's second law of motion came into play: “Force equals mass times acceleration.” Elementary school-aged students were introduced to the concept of mass and were able to apply it by keeping the mass of the elf’s sleigh as low as possible. Middle school-aged students were able to additionally apply Newton’s first law: “A body in motion will remain in motion unless acted on by a force.” They did this by thinking of their elf’s sleigh and how the friction caused by air could limit the speed and distance of their sleigh.     


After participating in the activity, all students were able to display a basic understanding of at least one of Newton’s laws and how they applied it to our holiday-themed STEAM activity. 


This activity applied all disciplines of STEAM.


Science was represented by applying Newton’s laws of motion. 


Technology was used in the balloon-powered zipline and the addition of a seatbelt. Technology does not always refer to tech-y gadgets but can often refer to innovations that solve problems. 


Engineering was displayed with the development of the elves and their sleighs. 


Art was used in the expression of design in the elf and sleigh. 


Mathematics in the applications of mass and balance. Will the mass of my elf and sleigh impact the speed and distance? 


How Do STEAM Activities Help Children with a Cancer Diagnosis? 


Often, the physical and emotional effects of medical treatments can have a lasting impact on pediatric cancer patients and their families. At the Austin Hatcher Foundation, we believe in comprehensive, coordinated care that goes beyond just treating the diagnosed child. We address the multifaceted needs of families affected by pediatric cancer, providing essential services through our Industrial Arts Therapy, Diversionary Therapy, Psycho-Oncology, and Healthy Lifestyle Education programs.


STEAM activities provide a fun outlet for children and their families while also educating them in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. STEAM activities are an important part of our therapeutic process. Our families sure do enjoy their time at our STEAM Club! 



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What is the Mission of the Austin Hatcher Foundation?


Our mission is clear: to erase the effects of pediatric cancer and optimize each child's quality of life. However, we cannot do it alone. We need the support of compassionate individuals like you to make a lasting impact.


How to Help or Get Involved


Your generosity has the power to fund vital therapy programs, support families in their most challenging times, and contribute to helping families cope in the present and thrive in the future of a childhood cancer diagnosis.


Every dollar you donate directly translates into hope for a child and their family.


Donate Today: Your financial support enables us to continue providing crucial services to those who need it. 


Spread the Word: Share our mission with your network. Awareness is key to garnering support and ensuring that no family faces pediatric cancer alone. Please feel free to make your own posts on social media and tag us!


Get Involved: Learn about all the ways you can volunteer and support the Austin Hatcher Foundation. 


About the Author

Beth is a certified science teacher. She has worked as an educator in middle schools as well as an Outreach Educator for the Creative Discovery Museum. As the STEAM Curriculum Coordinator, she brings standards-based, hands-on STEAM activities to the families of the Austin Hatcher Foundation. In her spare time, Beth is kept busy with her husband, Craig, three daughters and two dogs. She also serves on the Board of Signal Mountain Social Services. 

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