Robinson Gardens children love learning high-level skills
Something exciting is happening at Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens Apartments.
Just ask the children who have been flocking to the Robinson Gardens Community Room every Monday afternoon this fall, right after school is out.
That is when Lauren Dubois of the University of Massachusetts Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development program shares information and hands-on lessons with a focus on a few important subjects that spark learning and enhance formal education skills.
STEAM – that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics – triggers interest in those subjects and enhances participants’ skills sets and knowledge in preparation for possibly leading to possible careers in the many related fields.
The six-week program is open to children in grades three, four and five. It is so popular at Robinson Gardens that the Community Room is frequently full to overflow on the Monday afternoons when Dubois is present.
“They love it,” she said. “They’re very enthusiastic. Overall, the goal is to get them interested in the STEAM fields, and they are definitely interested. This is a great group.”
SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan said children are sure to benefit from the STEAM program. Their enthusiasm is proof positive that learning high-level subjects can be inspiring ad fun.
“We’re so happy to have STEAM at Robinson Gardens and hopefully we can continue the program,” Jordan said. “It’s a great thing all around to have our children exposed to these technology subjects, and learning by doing.”
Lessons feature lively discussion using vocabulary appropriate to scientific research, engineering and math. They learn two specific vocabulary words at each session, and review them the following week. Under the guidance of Dubois, children use analytic thinking skills and teamwork to solve problems as they make things.
One afternoon found the girls and boys using playdough to make creatures with features that ensure survival in specific habitats. They learned the words adaptation and habitat.
Another session, called ‘Magic Sand,’ illustrated the unique properties of magic sand to teach the properties of water molecules and water-repellant products, along with the words hydrophobic and hydrophilic. Another had children designing creative inventions, and learning the words inventor and patent.
On a recent Monday, they made bouncy gloop, using glue, borax and water, while learning the chemistry behind mixtures. Words of the day were chemist and polymer.
The sessions come under the heading of SHA’s family-based early literacy program, Talk/Read/Succeed! In its 10th year, the program unites three housing developments with neighborhood elementary schools and other organizations to enrich children’s learning and involve parents in the process.
At Robinson Gardens, T/R/S! Program Coordinator Lynne Cimino said STEAM has been an unqualified success.
“I love this program, and so do the youth,” Cimino said. “In a fun, hands-on weekly sessions the youth learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics without really knowing it because of the activities. They laugh, the come back every week, and I can see the excitement on their faces when they’re doing the experiments.”
Like Jordan, Cimino is hoping the program will be back in spring. Dubois said that is a possibility, depending on funding.
Participating children say the STEAM program is a great way to spend an afternoon.
“It’s always fun,” said third-grader Sebastian Rosado, who is 8. “We do stuff and we learn a lot of things. I like technology and this has a lot of technology.”
He added, “This is like a science class where your learn things and do make things at the same time.”
Fourth-grader Paulo Freatas agreed.
“I like it a lot,” said the 10-year-old. “It’s very cool. I like the activities. We don’t always do stuff like this in school. We’re always learning something here and we make things.”
Natalia Moynahan, who is 8, said she loves the hands-on part of the program.
“We get to create things and then we talk about it, too. We learn a lot,” said the third grader.
Ten-year-old Ediarys Merida said she loves the combination of learning new things and doing hands-on experiments that solve problems.
“I like this a lot,” said the fifth grader. “We get to learn and do activities and everybody learns.”
Hancel Valentin, also 10, said he hasn’t missed a session yet, and he doesn’t plan to.
“I always come,” he said. “It’s fun and it’s interesting. We learn a lot. I love science anyway and it’s a lot like science.”
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