Learning about math and science can be fun for kids.
STEM Learning Lab has embraced that educational philosophy, leading to the establishment of successful after-school and summer camp programs for youth in Calgary four years ago.
The initial positive feedback led STEM founder Gina Cherkowski to expand the program to Kelowna two years ago, taking advantage of a partnership opportunity with UBC Okanagan.
Today, STEM is embarking on a third summer of summer programs at UBCO for kids ranging from Grades 1 to 9. The STEM Learning Lab summer program complements the after-school and other community activities offered from September through June.
Summer camp options include software coding, hands-on clay and 3-D art play, Minecraft mania and exploring science.
Tyson Weir, managing director of the STEM Learning Lab BC, said the STEM philosophy is to expose participants to the school curriculum of tomorrow in a hands-on learning approach that encourages problem solving and critical thinking.
“Instead of memorizing, we want to encourage kids to think outside the box,” said Weir.
The STEM learning approach is centre around science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The program areas addressed reflect that—coding, robotics, gaming, app development, design thinking, social innovation, digital story telling, technology and art integration, maker activities, science and math.
Cherkowski, who holds a Phd in Mathematics Education and Culture Studies in Education, believes that play, exploration and meaning are critical factors for learning for all students.
She is a strong advocate for high-level, hands-on, engaging and meaningful learning experiences to enable students to meet the technology knowledge demands of the 21st Century.
Weir experienced first-hand in pursuing his post-secondary degree in environmental chemistry how interest in science among students wasn’t resonating with his peer group.
“I was one of 10 people in my graduating class and we started off originally with a class of 100,” said Weir, who attended Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. “That is 90 per cent loss, students who could become potential problem solvers in the future in the sciences who are missing.”
He said interest in math and sciences, especially among girls, starts to dwindle early on in their education, and he signed on with STEM after graduating to be a part of helping change that attitude.
Weir says technology has helped make science and math more accessible and fun for youngsters to learn, and he feels the STEM programs offer some of the tools to help generate those new learning realities.
He said the partnership with UBCO also offers opportunity for summer camp participants to spend part of their day using other recreational facilities on campus, such as the university sportsfields or swimming pool.
“Screen time is limited to three hours a day, so we break it up with other interactive activities,” Weir said.
For more information about the STEM summer camp programs online, go to http://stemlearninglab.com/Kelowna/.
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