Nicholas and Tommy are building movable carnival rides using robotics skills and Legos. The Robotics class and other STEM programs nurture creativity, independent thinking and building skills. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineer and math.

STEM classes help kids develop skills for the future
By Jean Seegers
After putting in a full day of first grade classes at Ledgewood School, a group of seven -year old students weren’t ready to call it quits. As part of the after-school STEM Program Entrepreneurship class, they had a design challenge to solve.
Each group of 3 or 4 students were given a budget to purchase supplies for building an engineering design challenge. They were to build a bridge strong enough to hold a cup of pennies and/or marbles. They were encouraged to ask questions, brainstorm, create a plan, build and test to see how much weight their construction could hold.
It sounds like a heavy order for first graders, but Judging from the enthusiasm and excitement, they were up to the challenge.
At neighboring Stone Creek School, teacher Blake Denoto’s students were involved in creating and racing robotic Lego cars. In another classroom, a more advanced group were working together to build moving carnival rides using Legos.
Over at Roscoe Middle School, members of an Advanced Robotics class used their problem-solving skills to create an Easter Egg-coloring machine. “The older kids are more independent,” teacher Andi Kneephkens said. “Just give them an idea, and they do what they want with it.” Kneephken said she loves her job. “Working with the STEM program is phenomenal.”
The Entrepreneurship and Robotics classes are just a few of the class choices available in the STEM program. What they have in common are hand-on learning, teamwork, building skills, nurturing creativity and sparking imaginations.
STEM for Kids is not a school district program. Rather, it is a franchise that enriches and supplements education programs in a school setting for K through 8th grade students through summer camps and after-school programs.
Three years ago, Donna Curtis and her husband Gary jumped on the opportunity to purchase the first STEM franchise in the United States.
Donna has a Master’s degree in math education K-14, and has been a math instructor at Blackhawk Tech. Gary has a business degree and a love of engineering and tinkering.
Classes such as Programming, Minecraft, Robotics, Bio-medical, Lego-WeDo, Web Design Engineering, and Raspberry Pi. are offered. In addition to the after-school program, Saturday classes and summer camps are also offered in Rockton, Roscoe, Janesville and Christian Life School in Rockford.
Classes are taught by qualified teachers and assistants.
“We have teachers who are retirees, parents and high school students,” Curtis said. Gary Curtis is one of the enthusiastic instructors. “We are always looking for new teachers that have knowledge of the roots of STEM.”
In addition to the 25 after-school classes now running, enrollment for this summer’s summer STEM Camp is underway. There are 50 camps in the Wisconsin area, Washington County, UW Waukesha.
In the Stateline area, classes will be held at Roscoe Middle School, Stephen Mack Middle School and the University of Wisconsin – Rock County.
Summer classes are Monday through Friday, three hours in the morning or three hours in the afternoon during June and July. Students can sign up for more than one class. Each class has 15 hours of instruction. The cost is $175 per class.
To learn more STEM programs, including summer camps, call Donna Curtis at 608-352-8330 or check out the website at HYPERLINK “”

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