The only things bigger than the mess were the smiles on the faces of the little explorers and their parents who attended the first Get Messy STEM night at Sacred Heart School.

The "Get Messy" program, geared toward families with children ages 2 to 8, was a free public event hosted by Sacred Heart that included pizza, cookies, drinks and eight different stations designed to encourage guests to think, explore, problem solve and get a little messy in the process. Activities included creating flubber and snow and enjoying sensory and exploratory play with shaving cream and blocks, water beads, noodles, and shredded paper.

"We set out to create an event for young families that combined creative learning, fellowship and family time," said Angela Hostetler, SHS School Advisory Council president and Get Messy committee member. "We wanted to build upon the success of the STEM night that Mr. Sam Jones, our Dean of Students, hosted last year for our upper elementary and high school kids. We were inspired to further that type of program to our younger kids."

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Hostetler said the format encouraged unstructured creative play and lots of freedom to express themselves. The turnout of 170 guests exceeded expectations.

"Our team was super excited when we reached our goal of 100 guests," she said. "As the numbers grew, so did our nerves, but we're family, and like family, we somehow found room for one more."

Hostetler credits the committee, parents and numerous student volunteers for the event's success.

"Our student body did a wonderful job bringing this event to life," she said. "They were attentive, helpful, and rolled graciously and enthusiastically with the unexpectedness that comes with hanging out with little ones. Our team had so much fun working on this project and it was rewarding to see so much laughter, learning, and carefree fun."

PICTURED (IMG_9896): Audrey Bawcom enjoys a snowfall of fun in the pile of shredded paper during the Get Messy night. One of the many sensory benefits of playing with shredded paper is that kids can play without getting dirty.

PICTURED: It's a green light for Josh Lucchesi to play with food at the spaghetti noodle sensory station.

PICTURED (IMG_9763): Hadley Reid (right) and Eli Meeder share big laughs making messes at the shaving cream and building blocks station. Research indicates that playing in shaving cream is a way to help reduce tactile sensitivity in children who are bothered by light touch.

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