STEM Exploration

It started with a simple idea that took shape this summer – craft a plan to showcase the joy of STEM exploration at the neighborhood level. It didn’t have to be flashy, but it had to be engaging. And it had to be local. Rather than asking people to come to us for STEM programming, we wanted to bring the programming to them.

So, in partnership with the city of Cleveland, we set to work bringing together a group of STEM educators and organizations for a couple of afternoons of fun for the whole family. In the end, that work came through in a big way.

On August 10, we were at the Lonnie Burten Recreation Center, and on August 11 we were at the Michael Zone Recreation Center, for hands-on STEM activities, from building simple robots, to creating hip-hop beats, to building mini soap box derby cars. We had a food truck and a water buggy. We had t-shirts and take-home STEM kits.

And we had fun.

Over two afternoons, we hosted more than 270 people, and were uplifted by what we saw. Kids engaged in thinking and building. Families learning about the natural world. Friends playing together in friendly competition. Everyone listening to the sound of slide whistles and kazoos up and down the sidewalk.

But what struck us most was something we heard over and over again. From the dedicated center directors, to the residents who see the centers as gathering places, to casual attendees, the refrain was the same. People wanted more. More programming, and with more frequency.

These events are proof-positive that there is a genuine appetite for neighborhood-based educational programming. They showed that a neighborhood will turn out for STEM. And they showed us what we need to do next.

Toward the end of the afternoon at Lonnie Burten, a boy of maybe 12-years old who’d been experimenting with coffee filter parachute drops and trying his hand at STEM trivia questions at one of the exhibits asked, “So when are you coming back?”

As soon as we can.