By Michelle McNally
Parents today hear a lot about how STEM education is an important component to education. While the acronym is thrown around a lot (it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), what STEM activities are can feel vague. STEM education actually encompasses many disciplines, so hands-on STEM experiences may be closer than you think.
YEAR ROUND OPPORTUNITIES
There are a couple of places around Indianapolis that feature hands-on STEM activities all of the time. Scienceworks, located on the fourth floor of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, incorporates ecology, physics, and much more in this popular permanent exhibit. Children can experiment with water, learn about the ecosystems of Indiana and a lot about the human body. Of course, there are other opportunities throughout the museum, including a planetarium show that teaches families about the night sky and panda rescue center in Take Me There China where children can learn to care for those elusive creatures.
An interactive history park may not seem like a logical place for hands-on STEM activities, but that’s what you’ll find at Conner Prairie. In Create.Connect., elementary school aged children are able to experiment with basic science concepts, not unlike the pioneers who invented many of today’s conveniences, like electricity. Families also have the opportunity to learn the science behind hot air balloons, and farming technology of the day in Prairietown.
The Microsoft Store at Keystone at the Crossing is fun to explore, but it also offers educational programs for children. Special programming is available for Scouting groups, schools and individuals. Check their events calendar for in-store offerings, and sign up for a class!
Area libraries offer ongoing programming, and many include a STEM component. Branches of the Indianapolis Public Library offer programs that include a LEGO building group as well as a MineCraft club. They offer computer-based learning experiences, and a variety of classes for families that may include anything from the science of cooking to the science of weather. Check the library’s website for upcoming programs (pro tip: most programs are offered at every library branch, so if you can’t attend a program at your local branch, see when it’s offered at a neighboring branch).
Summer is a great time for a some concentrated subject matter, and many summer camps around town are ready to help your child do just that. Here’s just a sampling of summer camps offered around Indianapolis.
E-Bash-this Castleton gaming center offers a variety of technology themed camps for children ages 8-16.
Bricks 4 Kids– a variety of camp settings featuring engineering concepts using LEGO bricks, for children ages 5-12.
YMCA of Greater Indianapolis – The Y offers a variety of summer camps for all ages, and many themes feature science & technology components.
Mad Science– half day camps featuring a variety of science topics, for children ages 5-12.
Indy Parks- Indy Parks offers traditional day camps, but they also offer speciality camps featuring Indiana wildlife and ecosystems.
With such a variety of STEM experiences to choose from, Indianapolis is a great place to learn.