It’s no secret that STEM programs are at the cutting edge of education, proven to lead to positive educational outcomes.
Right here in Kerrville, Schreiner University has a new facility — the STEMZone — with a primary focus of STEM academic support programming.
The building hosts a space for STEM majors where they have access to manipulatives and software, offering professional academic tutors, peer tutors from the Center of Teaching in Learning and STEM success coaches — as well as workshops for student’s academic needs.
On a given day, one might find a disarticulated skeleton in the closet, graphing calculators or special software for engineering students to use, a computer lab hosting a few classes, groups of chemistry students working intensely on a project, or students — such as the Animal Care Career Club — holding club meetings.
A United States Department of Education Title III grant helped fund the new STEMZone building, which formally opened in January. The STEMZone is open via access card 24 hours a day to students, faculty and staff — and students are making use of the opportunity.
The STEMzone’s student success coaching program has been a great success and has successfully coached 54 students, an impressive feat with only part-time staff.
It also hosts a weather club partnered with the Hill Country chapter of the National Weather Association and has partnered with the Girl Scouts of America for STEM programming.
Via the STEMzone, Schreiner students can attend academic excursions such as lunches with local United States Department of Agriculture scientists or science conferences in San Antonio.
According to Tanya Jimenez, STEM academic services coordinator and a success coach, STEM skills — and the quantitative literacy they afford — is important for students of all ages. Going forward, Schreiner intends to look for more community connections and opportunities for community outreach.
Yet long before college opportunities like the STEMZone are available, parents may find themselves wondering how to pique their children’s interest in science and technology.
On average, students in K-3rd grade spend far less time on science than they do on reading and writing, so it’s important to get them involved in hands-on ways so they see STEM fields as relevant to their daily lives.
But reading can be a good start: Read books together about Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie. The “Who Was…” series on Amazon provides a solid overview, with biography subjects ranging from Charles Darwin to Alexander Graham Bell to Galileo.
Multifunctional toys that invite open-ended and imaginative play — such as Legos, Lincoln logs, Erector sets and building blocks — are important for both boys and girls. Don’t be afraid to get creative: there are anatomy-themed coloring books out there, apps for kids to help them learn to code, and books of science experiments just waiting for you. Give your children a magnifying glass and some gardening gloves so they can go out into the world and explore, observing insects and plants.
Get out on the weekends for your own learning expeditions. Visit zoos, science centers, museums and botanical gardens with your kids. Here in Kerrville, the Riverside Nature Center is a great resource. So are the bird blinds, feeding areas and butterfly habitat at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park in Fredericksburg. And the San Antonio Zoo, the DoSeum, the San Antonio Aquarium and the San Antonio Botanical Center are not so far away.
Don’t forget that for every pursuit imaginable — even singing, dancing, sports and cooking — there’s some science governing it. Find that science. Teach it to your children. Teach them to love it.
At the end of the day, curiosity is the most essential gift you bequeath your children. Don’t let it pass them by.