STEM – an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math that was originated by the National Science Foundation – isn’t often a subject for preschoolers, but a new Chandler school is changing that.
The New World Learning Academy, slated to start classes in August, is introducing the community to Stem Fest, a free event open to all ages on Saturday, April 8.
The 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. festival, held on the school grounds and inside in their still-under-renovation school site at 900 E. Pecos Road, has a plethora of STEM-based activities that, said school founder Tracie Younce.
She said the fest aims to illustrate just how exciting science, technology, engineering and science can be.
“I wanted to do something fun for all ages so they can understand STEM isn’t intimidating,” said Younce, a former benefits consultant with Fortune 500 companies who changed careers to become a preschool teacher when her two children, Sydney, 9 and Michael, 6, entered school.
“And as a Girl Scouts leader for five years, I’ve realized there’s a lot of buzz about girls getting involved in STEM” she continued, adding:
“Waiting to introduce STEM until the middle of elementary school is too late. Many children, especially girls and minorities, will have lost interest or may become intimidated by math or science by that time.
“I want parents to realize that children developing skills early, will benefit them greatly all their lives.”
Demonstrations of various STEM programs will be grouped according to age categories, designed and implemented by area Girl Scout troops.
Among the hands-on activities will be demonstrations of technology programs for kids by Future Kiddie, a Chandler-based computer training business owned by Ken Chan.
“My kids were in one of his classes a couple years ago, and he’s been helping me in many ways, including providing my classrooms with computers,” said Younce.
Other all-ages demonstrations include science experiments with Kodable and Code.org, bridge engineering, a Michelangelo drawing station and Magic Milk, which introduces children to chemical reactions and colors.
There will also be New World Learning Academy informational tables for parents interested in registering their preschoolers, ages 3 to 6, for the 2017-2018 academic year, and signing up for KidQuest Summer Camp sessions that serve children ages 3 to 7
Outdoor games, a photo booth, snacks, prize drawings and other activities round out the four-hour festival.
The STEM Fest is quite the undertaking for Younce, who is still overseeing her nascent school’s renovation. And yet, she remains enthused at seeing her vision evolve.
“At the private school where I taught, I saw that they did a great job teaching STEM to older kids, but they did not offer STEM for the younger ones,” she said.
“I knew there was a lot more those kids could do so I threw in some science, and I saw their little faces light up. They were so interested!”
This was the epiphany moment for her. Along with her husband Adam Younce, a techie with Hitachi Solutions, she began formulating a plan to introduce STEM to preschoolers.
It has become a passion.
“Our country’s ability to improve and thrive with a modern workforce relies upon giving our kids a solid foundation in math and science,” said Younce.
“Introducing STEM at an early age, while kids are fascinated by everything around them, instills a curiosity and love of learning that will stay with them throughout their lives. I wanted to create a school that gets young children excited about these subjects, and I want to make sure this is done 100 percent the way I envision it.”
The KidQuest summer camps are weeklong, themed programs that begin June 5 and continue through July 21.
All day programs ($200) are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and half-day programs ($120) run from 9 a.m. to noon. Before- and afterschool care is available.
With themes like Under the Sea, Super Heroes and Stars and Stripes, Younce said even while having fun, children will be learning.
“Each unique weekly camp for children three to seven includes reading, writing, math skills, motivation in creative thinking and problem-solving skills with our advanced curriculum embedded in each themed week,” she said.