When it comes to STEAM education in York County, nobody does it like Northern Central Railway of York (NCR). NCR operates an excursion trail with a variety of educational and history-based programming. The STEAM program began in October 2020 and has grown into a variety of programs that provide students aged 6-12 to gain hands-on experience with ﬁve principals of STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.
Through week-long camps and weekend STEAM Fairs, students go beyond the classroom experience in these ﬁelds by building, constructing, and operating various train-themed STEAM projects. For some kids, this may be the experience that starts them down a career path towards one of a number of high-demand career ﬁelds related to STEAM.
The low-pressure, relaxed environment of the STEAM program allows students to ﬂourish. Ben Olewiler, a York City School District science teacher who runs the program, noted the importance of providing these types of programs particularly after the disruptions to education during the COVID-19 Pandemic. “The pandemic stopped ﬁeld trips and activities. This program brings back those opportunities and helps to get kids back on track”. He keeps the programming fresh by developing new activities to keep returning students engaged. “We need to expose kids to opportunities in these ﬁelds. We need welders.”
The STEAM program combines age-appropriate educational programming that meets Pennsylvania education standards with chances to play with other kids who have similar interests. The fun and educational curriculum is designed to have kids think critically and use practical skills to accomplish tasks related to circuitry, robotics, and coding. Older students have the opportunity to work with 3-D modeling software, Tinkercad, and to sculpt their designs in modeling clay. Additionally, the STEAM program works with volunteer high school students to supervise the students and activities. The volunteers have an opportunity to use their skills to give back and to explore opportunities in education.