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Lundy Elementary STEAM Camp Inspires Students

EPISD students are embracing the power of innovation this week at Lundy Elementary School, with more than 40 students signed up for “Camp Invention.”

The enrichment program was created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame to help inspire students in elementary-school grades to use their imaginations and become future innovators in STEAM-related fields.

Camp director and teacher Crystal Echaniz learned about the camp during a miniCAST conference and thought it would be a great program to host at Lundy.

“The camp helps kids discover through science and hands-on activities while having fun,” Echaniz said. “They are learning it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. If something doesn’t work they figure out how to make it better.”

During the weeklong camp, students are divided into three groups that cycle through the four different learning modules.

Each module is designed to teach students a different STEAM concept, such as learning about the physics of launching a rocket in Have a Blast or engineering their own alarm in Operation Keep Out.

Duct Tape Millionaire teaches students the value of their work and relative concepts like intellectual property. Lundy first-grader David Pakizer was busy making his own creation, using pipe cleaners and colorful duct tape.

“They gave us pretend money so we get to buy stuff,” David said. “We make different products using duct tape. I’m making a gummy bear.”

Mesita fourth-grader Gregory Sides grinned ear-to-ear as his group brainstormed how to best make their planet flourish during the Mission Space Makers module. He loves anything to do with science, but his favorite part of the camp is Operation Keep Out.

“I’ve always wanted to be an engineer so it’s been lots of fun taking apart electronics to make an alarm,” Gregory said. “I’m always interested in trying to build new inventions. I’m thinking of a new invention call ‘quad-ski,’ which is a jet ski that can turn into a car.”

Lundy fifth-grade student Sydney Rumpf is enjoying building skills in different areas of study.

“I’ve learned a lot of new vocabulary words I didn’t know,” Sydney said. “Another thing I’ve learned is that you just can’t go to a planet and put a house there. You have to actually grow plants and make it a good place to live.”

Teacher Suzy DeMore loves seeing the students work out their ideas, both in their inventor notebook and as a model.

“They are terraforming a planet to make it habitable, so maybe in the future when they are scientists they can think of ways to make planets like Mars a viable place to live,” DeMore said.

Sydney has a few ideas up her sleeve about how to make colonization in another planet successful.

“I think we need to build different domes for your resources and shelter,” Sydney said. “You still get the sunlight and inside you can control the environment and have oxygen.”

Tiny Xplorers Adds STEAM, Parents to Interactive Care Experience

I have this motto I live by. It’s even become the tag line for my web page and social media accounts: Viewing the world through a cracked lens and a jaundiced eye.

With everything I have seen in my forty-six years of life, I have a unique worldview. One of the things I have extreme opinions about is parenthood.

Far too often I will see young couples buying video games for themselves, and not their children. I’ve taken my son to birthday parties that were more for adults, and less for the children. I’ve even overheard a conversation at Walmart, where a young woman was telling her husband that buying a tablet for their child would be a good way to keep that child out of their hair.

Look around; you must admit there are a lot of people who get parenthood wrong.

This past Tuesday when Chris Babcock, our Editor-in-Chief, asked me to visit a new business called Tiny Xplorers I was ambivalent. I thought I was going to be visiting a place where parents can just drop off their children so they can go out with other adults, or have a kid free day.

I was wrong and surprised all at the same time.

Tiny Xplorers is the brainchild of Nora Yokota. She started it after she couldn’t find a place for her son to play, and learn. It’s not just the children who are playing or learning here. It’s also the parents who come with their children.  Most day cares – which Tiny Xplorers is not -and children’s learning centers focus only on the child.

By this, I mean that you drop your child off and come back some hours later to pick them up. There is no place for the parents in that equation. Nora and her husband Jeff are changing that paradigm.

“My inspiration for this business surfaced as a result of the lack of facilities in the city that provided my son with the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning experiences,” says Nora. “I wanted to provide a place for families in El Paso, where they can interact with their children to help them build a strong foundation for learning.”

Tiny Xplorers focuses on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. They have also incorporated digital media art into the learning model. What the team at Tiny Xplorers focuses on is creative play, rather than active play.

It is a rewarding experience and undercover learning. There are iPads where they can play and learn. A robot that they can work with and control. Blocks they can use to build with. But it goes beyond this. Tiny Xplorers also has rooms with specific play and learning goals in mind.

These play areas are something I’ve never seen in El Paso before. I love them, and the idea behind each one of them.

Let’s cover the rooms that Tiny Xplorers has.

The first room is digital media arts room that is loaded with Osmo. Osmo is an award-winning game system that will change the way children interact with the iPad by opening it up to hands-on play. That fits right in with Tiny Xplorers, getting them to think outside the box.

“Every activity has a little bit of thought behind it,” says Nora. “Literacy is such an important component of a child’s upbringing. That’s when language begins. A child that is read to will have a wider vocabulary.”

Tiny Xplorers has a wide selection of books that parents can read to their children. “I believe that anyone that can read and write will succeed. If we neglect that part of a child’s education, they struggle.” They also have a story time where the children can become active participants of what they hear.

Another room is the Band-Aids Hospital. In this room children are exposed to career opportunities, such as being a physician or vet. They get to dress up in costumes they have, and pretend to be saving a life, or curing diseases, and vaccinating cats and dogs.

“Band-Aids was done because most children are taken to the pediatrician, that is an environment that they are familiar with. Also, a lot of them have a pet at home,” she says. “So, often time they know that to feel better, they have to see a doctor. So we wanted them to have that experience, and utilize the tools that doctors use.”

The next room is the Hometown Heroes. “You know El Paso has just about every kind of occupation when it comes to security, like the police, DPS, State Police. We also have the military, the fire department. We wanted to honor all those people,” Nora says, and Jeff agrees.

“We hope Hometown Heroes takes the shape we envision it to be. The hero is the policeman that says hello to you in the morning, the neighbor that helps you with a flat tire. We wanted to emphasize the importance of everyone in our community.”

On their web page, there is a section where they can submit their hometown hero for recognition. After you’ve read this article, and maybe visited Tiny Xplorers, you and your kids can sit down and nominate a hometown hero via an online form.

All the rooms are community-based. “In my eyes,” Nora says, “this is a community center. It’s not a museum that sits in downtown with a huge facility. This is like the mom and pop learning center that is based on the community. That we hope is the community we serve. Let’s give them the chance to be the doctor or fireman. Let’s offer them the chance at role reversal. The learn a lot from mimicking the adults they see.”

And she’s right, they do learn, and Tiny Xplorers is out there, creating a new educational niche that is needed.

There is also a grocery store where children can learn to shop, wait on customers, and decide just what to make for dinner. “I wanted them to be the grown-up who gets to go shopping, get to be in the kitchen making dinner,” says Nora. “These are experiences that they are exposed to every day, they already have foundational knowledge of, and we wanted to add to that.”

Then there is a theater section. “Everyone is an actor or actress, they like to role play, like to dress up,” She says. They do. Kids are naturals at creating stories. Here, there are instruments, costumes, a piano like the one in the movie “Big” where they can dance and make music.
These are just some of the things found at Tiny Xplorers. There is so much that not just a child can do, but an adult can participate in. I don’t want to give away too much; I want you to visit! It’s a great place to be, play, and learn.

There are also structured activities. Several times a day they have some activity, as a group.

“We have daily activities,” says Jeff “These cover art projects, storytelling, theater, and a lot of hands-on activity that will work on coordination.”

These same activities are also incorporated into the birthday parties, and private parties they can host. In fact, over the two days I visited with Tiny Xplorers I was able to witness some of these activities. The kids enjoy them and are learning at the same time.

They also have camps planned for the summer. There is going to be a digital media camp, a Lego camp- I want to go to Lego camp, so if you’re willing to loan me one of your kids, I’ll not only feed them, but will help them build a castle.

They have so much planned. So many ways for your child to play, learn, and grow. And not just them, but you as well. You are there, in the middle of everything, playing and pretending with your child. You’ll meet other parents, and your kids will make connections with others their age.

It’s truly a rewarding play experience for your kids.

Tiny Xplorers is located at 11450 Rojas Drive, Suite #4. Visit them online on Facebook, or at 915-300-1220

Gallery+Story: Workforce Solutions Borderplex Announces 2017 STEAM Scholarship, Competition Winners

The 2017 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) Fiesta, which is coordinated annually by Workforce Solutions Borderplex and the STEAM Fiesta Committee, announced the winners during an awards ceremony last week.

This was the culmination of efforts that impacted regional middle school students  along with high school competitors.  The multidimensional, two-day event for middle and high school students was designed to increase student awareness of career opportunities in STEAM disciplines.

In conjunction with a long list of corporate sponsors, Workforce Solutions Borderplex is pleased to announce the following scholarships and competition winners:

Scholarships

El Paso Electric

Andrew Raul Munoz- Mission Early College

Megan Paredes- Loretto Academy

Melissa Nicole Dominguez- Del Valle HS

Natalia Gastelo- Del Valle HS

Ulises Cardoza – San Elizario HS

Samantha Dale Aziz- Northwest Early College

Cynthia Yadira Reyes – Fabens HS

Liza R. Barron  – Presidio HS

Damaris Peraza – Presidio HS

Isiah Jamal Hairston – Del Valle HS

El Paso Community College

Gerardo Alberto Garcia – Mission Early College HS

Erick Alvarez Velazquez – Valle Verde Early College HS

AZTEC Contractors

Hanadi Sonouper – Montwood HS

Competitions

STEMentorship

  • 2nd Place Winning Team: Presidio High School
  • 1st Place Winning Team: Irvin High School

JAVA CODING, Sponsored by Sigma

  • 2nd Place Winning Team: Chapin High School
  • 1st Place Winning Team: Coronado High School

APP Design Competition, Sponsored by Western Tech

  • 2nd Place Winning Team: Coronado High School
  • 1st Place Winning Team: Northwest Early College

STEM Business Challenge, Sponsored by the Hospitals of Providence

  • Track 1 2nd Place Winning Team: Iscape from Valle Verde Early College
  • Track 1  1st Place Winning Team: Creo Vera from Riverside
  • Track 2 2nd  Place Winning Team: P.T.T.8. from Del Valle High School
  • Track 2 1st Place Winning Team: K.A.A.P. from Valle Verde Early College

Growing on Mars Architecture Competition, Sponsored by Texas Tech

  • 3rd Place:  Fabens High School
  • 2nd Place: Burges High School
  • 1st Place:  Riverside High School

Prudential Math Counts Middle School Winners

  • 3rd Place: W. Clarke Middle School
  • 2nd Place: Canutillo Middle School
  • 1st Place: Marfa Junior High

Prduential Math Challenge High School Winners

  • 2nd Place:  Pebble Hills High School
  • 1st Place: Riverside High School

Over $34,000 in cash prizes and scholarships was awarded to students and schools.

For more information on how to get involved with Workforce Solutions Borderplex and the 2018 STEAM program, please contact, Joseph Sapien, STEAM Project Manager for Workforce Solutions Borderplex at (915) 240- 5571 or by email at joseph.sapien@borderplexjobs.com

Math Adds Up For Area Schools

Two years ago, the Prudential Foundation announced a commitment of $870,000 to help build a next-generation workforce in El Paso.  Since then, Prudential’s investment has impacted two programs: the Prudential Math Challenge Competition created for high school students and MATHCOUNTS targeted at middle schoolers.

The second  Prudential Math Challenge Competition, which will be held in conjunction with the annual STEAM Fiesta hosted by Workforce Solutions Borderplex, is a math modeling competition that challenges high school students to respond to a real-world problem in real time.

On Monday, three finalist teams were announced from:

Pebble Hills High School

Presidio High School

Riverside High School

They will compete at the El Paso Community College in Building B, located at 9050 Viscount, at 3:00pm on Friday, April 7, 2017.  Results will be announced immediately following the competition.

Earlier this year, MATHCOUNT grants were awarded to the following middle schools to start or further math clubs within in their schools:

Canutillo Middle School

East Montana Middle School

Eastwood Knolls International School

Marfa Junior High

Parkland Middle School

Riverside Middle School

Ross Middle School

Salvador H. Sanchez Middle School

Socorro Middle School

Clarke Middle School

William D. Slider Middle School

All of the middle schools listed above were invited to compete in a video challenge.  The winners from that competition will be announced at the STEAM Fiesta Awards event on Friday, April 7, 2017 at 5:00pm.

Prudential funded MATHCOUNTS to increase math competency by offering funds to public middle schools in order to implement a nationally-recognized MATHCOUNTS program. This innovative model provides students real-world experiences that cannot be replicated in the classroom.

Participation in MATHCOUNTS during middle school will increase participation in the Prudential Math Challenge Competition for future years, as well as enhance interest and confidence in applied mathematics, a crucial competency for all STEAM-related fields.

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