PHARR, RGV – Workforce Solutions Lower Rio Grande Valley teamed up with various organizations to provide a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) camp for elementary and middle school-aged children.

About 450 kids from local Texas Rising Star-accredited childcare facilities traveled to the Pharr Events Center to engage in STEAM-related activities and learn about different careers in these fields.

“The earlier you start kids thinking about science, technology, engineering, math and arts, the better, I think, they’ll be able to make decisions moving forward,” said WSLRGV CEO Francisco Almaraz.

“Historically when STEM first started it was just science, technology, engineering and math, but … a lot of educators really brought the idea that we needed arts also included. And, with arts you also learn a lot of others skills that are maybe not necessarily in the science area, but thinking – critical thinking – and being innovative … that really helps out in the long run.”

Sandra Solis, child care quality initiatives manager for WSLRGV, explained that most of the kids are part our Workforce Solutions’ Child Care Services program and come from single-parent and low-income homes. While she did not want to stereotype them, Solis said they are considered “at-risk,” which research shows are more likely to be behind when they enter school. With the camp, WSLRGV is aiming to close that gap.

“What we want to do is enhance childcare in each of the centers, in each of the TRSs,” said Solis. “So, if we can introduce STEM (sic) to them now at this early age, we’re already a step ahead.”

In groups, the children rotated between tables set up by the McAllen Recycling Center, Code RGV, UT-Rio Grande Valley, the International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS), FIRST RGV, Lakeshore Learning and WSLRGV, itself. From coding a circuit board and creating bubble art to manipulating robots and making playdough, there was plenty for the children to do, with STEAM integrated throughout. And, although the children were the intended audience, the staff at WSLRGV says they hope the childcare providers were also inspired.

“It helps the teachers when they’re creating lessons,” said Solis. “We’ve done a little bit of introduction so the children are familiar with science, with technology, so it’ll be easier for them to facilitate their lesson. And, then they can always reference back,

‘Remember the event that we attended with Workforce? All the activities?’ That’s our hope, to be able to reference us.”

Pending the feedback they receive from providers, WSLRGV would like to continue hosting STEAM camps in the future.

“It’s a lot of planning … but, it’s fun, said Solis. “And, ultimately, we want the children to have fun, and we want to introduce these aspects to them in a fun way.”