Northern Virginia Students with Special Needs And Their Families Get Exposed to STEAM

The Northern Virginia District PTA partnered with the Arlington County Special Education PTA and the Fairfax County Special Education PTA to host an iSTEAM Expo for Northern Virginia students with special needs and their families.

This first-of-its-kind event, held at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia, featured various stations for students and their families to conduct science experiments, ask questions about STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), learn about music and art, as well as engage with exhibitors about potential STEAM opportunities at and for their schools and within their communities.

Exhibitors that participated during the event included Mathnasium of NOVA, USTA Mid-Atlantic, 3D Me, AllStar Photo Booth, Fun Services, Virginia529, The Downs Syndrome Association of NOVA, Arc of NOVA, Formed Families Forward, FCPS Parent Resource Center, Arlington CPS Parent Resource Center, Sliding Doors STEM & Dyslexia Learning Center, Arlington County Therapeutic Recreation Office, NOVA Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, Parents of Autistic Children-NoVA, ADC Cheer, Educational Theatre Co., Kat & Mo Art Studios, Original Works, Arlington SEPTA, Fairfax SEPTA, Washington Nationals, National PTA, and Bayer.

The Sept. 7 event was made possible through the National PTA STEM+Families program, which was designed to increase access to STEM education and careers, especially among under-represented youth, by developing, evaluating and sharing effective ways to engage families in STEM experiences, while working with partners to improve access to STEM school and community learning environments. This initiative is consistent with PTA’s vision that all students have the family and community support needed to access and pursue STEM opportunities and careers and with PTA’s mission to make every child’s potential a reality.

One of the students that attended the event was Ben, a Fairfax County student, who uses a letter board with a communication partner to communicate. Ben made sure that he met with PTA leaders during the event and indicated, “This i-STEAM event presented by the local county special education PTAs and the Northern Virginia District PTA was totally innovative and great! It is so necessary and important to expose all students to the wonders and value of math and science regardless of labels.”

3D-Me, a company based on Vienna, Va. that provides introductory 3D photography (scanning), 3D printing, and computer-aided design workshops to students and teachers, engaged with students and their families about using 3D technology to make keepsake figurines. Bruce Wyman, Chief Strategy Officer, 3D-Me and a STEAM teacher within Fairfax County Public Schools, indicated about the event, “It was a great event with wonderful educational sessions for students and their families as well as PTA leaders.”

NOVA District PTA, Arlington County Special Education PTA, and the Fairfax County Special Education PTA look forward to hosting this type of event for students with special needs and their families again with support from the business community and various community organizations.

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Debbie Kilpatrick is the district director of NOVA District PTA. Further inquiries about the Lake Braddock Secondary School event can be directed to 

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