STEAM Education Gets the Green Light

January 20, 2022, Department, by Jenna Brinkman

02 22 Park Bench STEAM Education Gets the Green Light 410

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The 2021 NRPA Out-of-School Time Report found that two-thirds of park and recreation agencies offer out-of-school time science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) activities. In Elk Grove, California, the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) is among those using STEAM to engage young minds and instill a lifelong love of learning.

The coordinators at Kid Central, Cosumnes CSD’s out-of-school time program for elementary school-aged children, plan curriculum around monthly themes. The overarching curriculum of kindness provides a space of acceptance and belonging. “We’ve always been intentional that all kids are seen and represented. We make this a priority when developing and implementing curriculum,” says Program Supervisor Chantal Udasco.

In recognition of Black History Month, February’s theme is “Inventors and Innovators,” with activities that highlight African Americans and women in history who helped make the world a better place. February’s focus is especially impactful to participants from underrepresented communities, as women and minorities have historically been left out of science and technology-oriented disciplines.

Last February, one STEAM project highlighted Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the improved stoplight. The day began with a U.S. history lesson about Morgan’s technological innovation, which evolved into an art project where the kids integrated math and engineering to create their own working stoplight. The project inspired collaboration and problem-solving skills and had the kids buzzing with excitement. After completing the project, everyone had a blast playing an inspired game of Red Light, Green Light.

“All of the STEAM concepts were woven together to give a full understanding and experience for the kids that day,” says Program Coordinator Katy Ward. “We noticed that they were so fully immersed in the lesson that they didn’t even realize we had taught them something,” she adds with a laugh.

The month also included a segment titled “Inventions By Accident.” Participants were impressed to learn about historical figures who persevered after experiencing failure. Udasco says these lessons inspire hands-on learning, encourage curiosity, and promote a growth mindset for the kids. With a focus on STEAM and diversity, participants exercise creative thinking in an inclusive learning environment where everyone is encouraged to participate and contribute.

As an agency dedicated to providing culturally-responsive services, program coordinators at Cosumnes CSD provide an opportunity for young participants to engage with adults who believe in them, challenge them and support them beyond a traditional classroom setting.

Jenna Brinkman is Public Affairs Manager for Cosumnes Community Services District.