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Grant funds Stepping into STEM Program for young children

Posted 11/29/2017

Mom and daughter reading a book together

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Stepping into STEM Program will work much like Extension’s Family Storyteller literacy program, pictured here, offering parent-child workshops. Photo by Teresa Shaerer, Cooperative Extension.

Cooperative Extension creates series of workshops for children and their parents

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension received a five-year, $640,000 grant for a program to increase at-risk Spanish-speaking children’s interest, knowledge and engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Extension was one of three recipients nationwide to be awarded one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Children, Youth, and Families at Risk awards.

The program, University of Nevada Sustainable Community Project — Stepping into STEM, will not only teach preschool through second-grade children, but will also work with their parents to show them how to help their children become interested in STEM.

“Latinos are woefully under-represented in STEM careers as adults,” said Cooperative Extension Human Development Specialist and Project Director Dan Weigel. “Many children are not involved in formal child care programs and don’t have STEM opportunities before they start school. We want to catch them at young ages, since foundational academic interest in STEM begins before kindergarten.”

Stepping into STEM will work much like Cooperative Extension’s effective Family Storyteller and Fun to Play Programs, both of which were created by Weigel and his Cooperative Extension colleagues, Project Co-Director YaeBin Kim and Project Evaluator Bill Evans. The programs offer a series of interactive parent-child workshops that include books, in-class activities and take-home activities. The Family Storyteller curriculum, due to its effectiveness in working with both parents and children to enhance children’s literacy skills, has won numerous awards, was chosen as a national Extension program and has been used in at least 29 other states.

Weigel’s Stepping into STEM team will create a curriculum, hire instructors, implement a pilot test and translate all take-home materials into Spanish. From there, Stepping into STEM will be offered as a series of workshops at elementary schools with large Latino populations in Reno and Las Vegas, as well as at select libraries, Head Start programs and family engagement centers in Las Vegas.

Check out Cooperative Extension’s children, youth and family programs for more information on STEM and literacy programs offered.

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