From pond to ocean: Full STEAM Ahead opens floodgates

Submitted Photo Children involved with Full STEAM Ahead performed “And Then There Was One, A Spoof” last year. Shown are, back from left to right, are Russ Hokenson, William Anderson, Kayden Cross and Archer Schnaible; front from left to right are Elizabeth Nelson, Annie Carr, Vivy Anderson, Aryianna Bechel, Braya Auch and Izzy Mocko.

Full STEAM Ahead has come quite a long way from its inception in 2015 as the Make-A-Scene Kids’ Theater. Not only are the arts included in its activities, but so are science, technology, engineering and math, making the acronym STEAM.

Make-A-Scene Kids’ Theater was founded by Ali Auch in 2015, and she was only doing theater. She wanted to branch out and see what else was out there for the kids, so when other activity ideas were thrown her way, she took them on and made them happen.

In 2017, Full STEAM Ahead was recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, offering activities that involve all of the components of STEAM.

“I guess I kind of say that we came out with gates wide open, and I just took on anything that was youth-related,” Auch said.

Some of the first events held were tea parties, goat yoga and programming a pumpkin with a light inside.

Submitted Photo “The Wind in the Willows” was performed by Full STEAM Ahead in 2023. Shown are, in back from left to right, are Mary Almond, Olivia Harnist, Piper Nelson, Kieran Mobley and Andy Busch; in the middle from left to right, are Harper Hanson, Vivy Anderson, Kate Grubb, Izzy Mocko and Braya Monley; in the front is Elizabeth Nelson.

“We really just kind of opened the floodgates, and if there was someone wanting to do something in the community, I’d say, ‘Absolutely. Yes, let’s do it,'” Auch said.

Since 2017, she has been filtering through some of the events being presented to her. She wants to ensure the activity is placed before them as the appropriate nonprofit. If not, she helps find the appropriate organization for the task, so the event will be successful.

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, Auch said they were really finding their bearings and getting things running smoothly. COVID-19 shattered much of the progress they made in their programs, forcing them all to be moved online.

Since the pandemic ended, operations have returned to normal. Activities have started again, and Auch said they have plans for some new collaborations in 2024.

Local musician Andy Busch will be working with Full STEAM Ahead to give children who are interested in learning the guitar an opportunity to get hands-on practice.

One activity that turned out to be a big hit among the children is chess. Todd Wulf had tried offering chess lessons on his own, but the classes wouldn’t fill up, so they would end up getting canceled. Auch reached out to Wulf to see if he would be interested in teaching chess under a nonprofit umbrella.

Auch talked to Darren Seifert from the technology and mathematics department and Ethan Valentine from MSU’s Esports team, and it turns out that chess falls under the Esports category. She put Wulf and Valentine in touch and everything was set up.

By operating the lessons under Full STEAM Ahead, there was more opportunity for children to participate, and it has since grown into an entire category of events.

She has talked to Wendy Keller, the executive director at the Magic City Discovery Center, about potentially using the roof space during the nicer months for theater performances.

Minot State University is also a future contact for her, as she would like to use the college’s outdoor amphitheater.

News of the events that are going on travels quickly, often as students tell their friends about what they are doing. The activities that Full STEAM Ahead puts on give children a chance to come out of their shells and get more involved.

Auch recalled one little girl who had arrived at her first event with her phone in her hands, playing with it until something happening on stage interested her. She would put it away, but as soon as there was any sort of unstructured interaction that was not part of the performance, the girl would go back to her phone. As time went on, the girl became so acquainted with the other children and engaged that the phone eventually did not go with her at all.

“This is such a safe space for them to realize it’s OK to be yourself and it’s OK to not know, and it’s OK to ask questions. Once they feel that comfort in these walls, then they’re willing to say, ‘I don’t know this. Will you show (it to me)?'” Auch said.


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