Steaming ahead with after-school interactive education - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

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The basis of early education used to be the 3Rs – reading, writing and ‘rithmetic – but the current trend is for STEAM; science, technology, engineering, art and maths – and what an exciting mix it is.

Jodee Engeman is Community Programs and Partnership Leader for libraries in the Redlands and one of the projects in her very special toy box is STEAM Zone, an after-school interactive education project designed for young students, from six to 12 years old – and their lucky parents. The one-hour sessions cover a range of topics and learning media, from iPads to coloured pencils to dabbling in dirt and are designed supplement school curricula by exciting interest, prompting questions and stimulating imagination.

Jodee worked as a teacher in the Redlands for 25 years, for 10 of those years as a teacher/librarian. She’s passionate about reviving the STEAM Zone project, which, like so many community undertakings, suffered from COVID lockdowns.

“STEAM Zone was up and running but COVID, with its closures and limited attendance numbers, really had an impact. Now that things are levelling out we’re back into the program with a vengeance and it’s proving even more popular than we’d anticipated,” she says.

Some of the pursuits focus on a single module, some combine different topics. The afternoon’s activity could be making a basic catapult from elastic bands and lollypop sticks, with a prize for the longest shot (carefully supervised, of course) or learning the elements of architectural engineering by building plastic click-in skyscrapers and bridges. Art and biological science link arms in the Living Fairy Garden project, where students build a tiny garden then populate it with coloured-in fairies (an activity equally popular with boys and girls).

Technology and art come to the fore in a computer program that involves colouring in a provided picture then animating it via a computer program; maths is well served by accessing colourful, animated computer programs that are real favourites with the students. Coding, grown from such historical roots as Morse Code and the Enigma machine, finds a modern-day expression in students programming the movements of little robot bugs. The sky, it seems is the limit.

STEAM Zones run from 3.30pm to 4.30pm at Council libraries at Victoria Point (Tuesdays), Capalaba (Wednesdays) and Cleveland (Thursdays). Parents are required to stay with their children for the session – and in truth, it would probably be hard to tear them away.

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