Full STEAM Ahead: Promoting STEAM in afterschool and at home

A young girl in a pink outfit, controls a robot during a YouthQuest STEAM event.

While YouthQuest is continually empowering students to explore science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, or STEAM, the afterschool program believes so much in the importance of these fields that it also offers something called STEAMQuest at least once a year.

As part of the weeklong celebration, which was held this year in mid-April, YouthQuest students participate in a variety of hands-on activities that promoted problem solving, analytical thinking, learning by trial and error and creativity. This includes robot races, music production and puzzle design, to name a few.

“Students learn about aspects of STEAM during day school, but this kind of hands-on programming can really help ignite passions and get students excited about learning – even those who might not traditionally consider themselves ‘math or science kids,’” said Leslie Davis, director of Afterschool Education for Flint & Genesee Education & Talent, a division of Flint & Genesee Group. “It’s really the first step in preparing our youth for jobs and career paths that not only push our society forward but also offer significant opportunity in terms of high wages and job growth.”

That sentiment is echoed by Jonathan Harris of the Harris S.T.R.E.A.M. Team, a local business that offers YouthQuest students and others robust programming in all things STEAM and reading.

“I always point to Sam Bernstein’s family – it seems like all of his kids are attorneys,” says Harris, who co-owns the Harris S.T.R.E.A.M. Team with his wife, Andeia Harris. “Why is that? I imagine it comes down to exposure. Law was probably a regular part of the discussion around their breakfast table.

“So, what if we do the same thing and expose our kids to (STEAM)? Think of all the great things that could lead to!”

According to Harris, families can do all sorts of things to encourage an interest in these subjects for their students. They might play Monopoly or dominoes or try some of the science experiments from TheDadLab. One simple way, he says, is by including them in the cooking process.

“Let them watch what you’re doing,” Harris says. “And if they’re old enough, let them cut up vegetables or measure out ingredients. That’s math in action.”

Field trips also help. Thanks to the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage, Genesee County residents receive discounted admission rates to Longway Planetarium and Sloan Museum at Courtland. And soon, families will have access to Sloan Museum of Discovery, which is undergoing significant renovations and is set to reopen July 16.

Ultimately, whatever you choose to do, consistency is key.

“To build fluency in STEAM, you need to use it often and in lots of different ways,” Davis says. “It’s not enough to do just a little here and there. Multiple, connected experiences are important.”

YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.