Children in Doña Ana County have additional opportunities to learn while having fun this summer thanks to New Mexico State University’s STEM Outreach Center and its community partners.
The center has partnered with Families and Youth Incorporated, Cruces Creatives, Gym Magic and Friends of the Organ Mountains to host several free summer camps for area children. The camps provide a safe and healthy learning environment for area students to develop new skills, explore STEM concepts and build new friendships. The camps also offer active and engaging learning activities for students.
FYI provides healthy meals at all camps, as well as “Lunch and Learn” events at Las Cruces parks every Wednesday in collaboration with AmeriCorp and the STEM Outreach Center. While many of the summer camps the organizations are offering this summer are at capacity, children can still participate in the “Lunch and Learn” events.
“We are very excited about the partnerships that have developed to provide children in our community with exciting camp opportunities,” said Wanda Bulger-Tamez, director of the STEM Outreach Center. “Las Cruces, Gadsden and Hatch schools have been very supportive in providing funding and transportation for students to participate. All the camps are offered free of charge to families and materials and lunch is provided to each camp participant.”
Nancy Bates, owner of Gym Magic, said she was “delighted” to partner with the STEM Outreach Center this summer.
“It’s been a tough year for most children, and having this opportunity to offer our summer Camps 4 Kids and Summer Swim programs to new families for free was wonderful,” Bates said. “We are, indeed, fortunate to have such great support in our community.”
The camps have proven successful, with registrations for most of them near or at capacity for the summer. About 900 students participated in the science and engineering labs hosted by the Gadsden Independent School District earlier this month. Bulger-Tamez said the learning labs were in conjunction with K-5 Plus, and Gadsden is partnering with STEM Outreach Center to build the curriculum for K-6 students to be involved in the engineering design process. Topics included energy, flight, magnetism, building structures, solar energy and drones.
“This was probably the first time for some of our students experiencing the engineering design process,” said Sara Morales, assistant director of the STEM Outreach Center. “The labs gave students an opportunity to be creative. Students had to think about different challenges and work together to find the best possible solution. Like real engineers, students were exposed to having a resilient mindset, some of their prototypes needed to be re-designed. Overall, it was a unique experience for students. We received optimistic feedback about the program and how much students enjoyed it.”
The labs were a big hit among students, some of whom expressed a desire to explore a career in engineering or to learn more about the field.
Las Cruces resident Ellen Smalley said her family has appreciated the summer camps offered by Cruces Creatives.
“My 9-year-old daughter, Millie, had so much fun designing and building her circuit creations. I was thoroughly impressed each day when Millie would come home and explain the process and show me her work,” Smalley said. “I believe in the importance of skill building, collaborative problem solving and showing your own voice, and think these are the types of enrichment activities that will prepare the innovators of tomorrow.”
For more information about the free “Lunch and Learn” events, email Stephanie Vargas at firstname.lastname@example.org.