Adriana M. Chavez
LAS CRUCES – Kids 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 community partners.
The center has partnered with Families and Youth Incorporated, Cruces Creatives, Gym Magic and Friends of the Organ Mountains to organize several free summer camps for children in the area. The camps provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students in the region to develop new skills, explore STEM concepts, and make new friendships. The camps also offer active and engaging learning activities for students.
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FYI, healthy meals are offered in all camps, as well as “Lunch and Learn” events in Las Cruces parks every Wednesday in collaboration with AmeriCorp and the STEM Outreach Center. Although many summer camps offered by organizations this summer are at full capacity, children can still participate in “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. “The schools in Las Cruces, Gadsden and Hatch have been very supportive in providing funds and transportation for students to participate. All camps are offered free of charge to families and equipment and lunch are provided to each camp participant.
Nancy Bates, owner of Gym Magic, said she was “thrilled” to partner with STEM Outreach Center this summer.
“It’s been a tough year for most of the kids, and having this opportunity to offer our 4 Kids Summer Camps and Summer Swim programs for free to new families was wonderful,” said Bates. “We are, indeed, lucky to have such great support in our community. “
The camps have proven to be successful, with registrations for most of them near or at full capacity for the summer. About 900 students participated in science and engineering labs hosted by the Gadsden Independent School District earlier this month. Bulger-Tamez said the learning labs were in collaboration with K-5 Plus, and Gadsden partnered with the STEM Outreach Center to develop the curriculum for K-6 students to participate in the engineering design process. Topics covered included energy, flight, magnetism, building structures, solar power, and drones.
“This was probably the first time that some of our students had experienced the engineering design process,” said Sara Morales, associate director of the STEM Outreach Center. “The labs gave students the opportunity to be creative. The students had to think about different challenges and work together to find the best possible solution. Like real engineers, students were exposed to a resilient mindset, some of their prototypes needed to be redesigned. Overall it was a unique experience for the students. We received upbeat feedback about the program and how much the students enjoyed it.
The labs have met with great success with students, some of whom have expressed a desire to explore a career in engineering or to learn more about the field.
Las Cruces resident Ellen Smalley said her family enjoyed the summer camps offered by Cruces Creatives.
“My 9 year old daughter Millie had so much fun designing and building her circuit designs. I was very impressed every day when Millie came home to explain the process and show me her work, ”said Smalley. “I believe in the importance of building skills, collaborative problem solving and expressing your own voice, and I believe these are the types of enrichment activities that will prepare the innovators of tomorrow. “
For more information on the free Lunch and Learn events, email Stephanie Vargas at [email protected].
Amanda Adame writes for Marketing and Communications at New Mexico State University and can be reached at 575-646-7953 or by email at [email protected].