S.T.E.A.M. cultivates success in failure and love of learning

“I believe it is important to establish failure as a positive moment."

Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini

S.T.E.A.M. cultivates success in failure and love of learning

Written by: Lesly Bailey
September 14, 2018


The blue whale’s smile entices visitors to flop with fervor.

The S.T.E.A.M. Shop Educational Center’s Fail Whale—a class mascot—is at the core of owner Alicia Madeka’s attitude on learning. “One of my philosophies I have developed throughout my years of exploration and experimentation was that most of the time you will fail at what you are trying to achieve,” she says. “I have watched how others treat failure and often it is shrouded around negativity and anger.

“I believe it is important to establish failure as a positive, ‘great – now what can you change?’ moment. Fail Whale’s sole purpose is to create a space where students can openly post, share and accept how they and others failed that day.”

Science Technology Engineering Art and Math are at the heart of the center in Valparaiso. Madeka offers such services as classes for all ages, camps, ISTEP/IREAD tutoring, business team building, professional development for elementary school teachers, and a space for birthday parties.

“STEAM is not just important, it is vital in the overall development of our society. We need to make sure we are educating our youth to be able to critically deal with the constant barrage of changing needs and wants that our society demands,” Madeka says. “With STEAM, we can start educating our children to become better critical thinkers, problem solvers and team players.

“True STEAM programs allow for a complete meshing of all of those subject areas into project-based activities and assignments. My projects and activities allow creativity and imagination to drive a student’s innovation.”

Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Alicia Madeka founded the S.T.E.A.M. Shop in order to cultivate a fun new way of learning.
Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Alicia Madeka founded the S.T.E.A.M. Shop in order to cultivate a fun new way of learning.

The blue whale’s smile entices visitors to flop with fervor.

The S.T.E.A.M. Shop Educational Center’s Fail Whale—a class mascot—is at the core of owner Alicia Madeka’s attitude on learning. “One of my philosophies I have developed throughout my years of exploration and experimentation was that most of the time you will fail at what you are trying to achieve,” she says. “I have watched how others treat failure and often it is shrouded around negativity and anger.

“I believe it is important to establish failure as a positive, ‘great – now what can you change?’ moment. Fail Whale’s sole purpose is to create a space where students can openly post, share and accept how they and others failed that day.”

Science Technology Engineering Art and Math are at the heart of the center in Valparaiso. Madeka offers such services as classes for all ages, camps, ISTEP/IREAD tutoring, business team building, professional development for elementary school teachers, and a space for birthday parties.

“STEAM is not just important, it is vital in the overall development of our society. We need to make sure we are educating our youth to be able to critically deal with the constant barrage of changing needs and wants that our society demands,” Madeka says. “With STEAM, we can start educating our children to become better critical thinkers, problem solvers and team players.

“True STEAM programs allow for a complete meshing of all of those subject areas into project-based activities and assignments. My projects and activities allow creativity and imagination to drive a student’s innovation.”

Madeka saw the concept for her shop—launched in July 2017—while touring the former Valparaiso Technical Institute building with daughter Sara Tamez, who was looking for space for her metal-smithing studio. “We stopped in front of a room that was previously known as ‘The Library.’ I clearly remember that my heart skipped a beat even before I opened the door,” she says. “I instantly saw the room as an opportunity to continue doing something I was even more passionate about than art itself—teaching.”

Madeka retired in June 2017, having taught elementary school art in Hammond as well as third grade until the end of her career. She has led winning Lego Robotics and Science Olympiad teams as well as taught a summer gifted and talented program for 25 years. She maintains her teaching credentials and has a STEM certification through NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project.

Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini

She traces her desire to teach back to her childhood and outdoor adventures with her family at Wolf Lake in Hammond.

“I wanted to learn about everything, and the only way to do it was to get out there and actually ‘catch and release’ bugs, frogs, spiders and crawfish. I would spend the rest of the time collecting plant and rock samples to take home for further study and experiments,” she says. “I did this religiously for years and years. I guess my love of teaching developed through my love of learning.”

Today, she hopes to cultivate this learning process at her STEAM space. “I know what it feels like to have that ‘lightbulb’ moment and I passionately want to guide others to have it also,” she says. “There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing a proud child or adult smile when they finally acknowledge to themselves that they have learned—and now understand—something new.”

FIND IT HERE
The STEAM Shop
1150 W Lincolnway, Ste 10, Valparaiso
thesteamshop.rocks