2018-04-11 / Home

JCC’s STEAM program growing rapidly, as five teams attend competition

The Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center at the Katz JCC recently hosted an awards ceremony to recognize students who participated in the Destination Imagination STEAM competition in Basking Ridge, NJ. The JCC sent five teams of students, which included children from the ECC, the Just4Kids afterschool program, and first grade students who graduated from the JCC Early Childhood Center. Celebrating their accomplishments were the Sparkle Rainbows, Kid Ninjas, Rainbow Flying Unicorns, Just4Kids, and JCC Superheroes.The Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center at the Katz JCC recently hosted an awards ceremony to recognize students who participated in the Destination Imagination STEAM competition in Basking Ridge, NJ. The JCC sent five teams of students, which included children from the ECC, the Just4Kids afterschool program, and first grade students who graduated from the JCC Early Childhood Center. Celebrating their accomplishments were the Sparkle Rainbows, Kid Ninjas, Rainbow Flying Unicorns, Just4Kids, and JCC Superheroes.By DAVID PORTNOE

Voice Editor

The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program at the Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill was started only last year, but it has been such a success that the program is growing by leaps and bounds, according to Donna Snyder, ECC director. As an example, Snyder pointed out that last year the JCC sent one team to the Destination Imagination STEAM Challenge. This year, five teams represented the JCC, including students from the ECC, Just4Kids afterschool program, and first grade students who graduated from the JCC’s Early Childhood Center.

On Apr. 9, the JCC awarded the 29 members of the five teams certificates and medals from the statewide challenge.

“We’ve really created excitement among the kids, parents, and teachers through this process of learning,” said Snyder. She said that initially she thought that there would be two or three teams travelling to Basking Ridge, NJ for the competition, but ultimately there were five teams. “The kids really wanted to do this,” said Snyder. She added that the competition helps the children develop their collaboration, teamwork and thinking skills.

Early Childhood teacher and STEAM Coordinator Michelle Carrera-Foster said that the students who went to Basking Ridge competed against other students from around the state. “It’s a fun learning experience,” said Carrera-Foster. She said that the students’ work is appraised, but not judged. “It gives them a chance to learn what they will get at the older challenges,” said Carrera-Foster.

“Last year, we tipped our big toe into the STEAM curriculum,” and that effort, said Snyder, created a tremendous amount of excitement. “Parents kept asking about it. With that momentum, families became more involved, and they are helping to fund the program,” she said, thanking them for the sponsorship dollars. Snyder said that the STEAM programming is really enhancing the entire early childhood curriculum by strengthening student learning and family engagement.

Carrera-Foster said that following the STEAM Challenge, the students would be moving into coding. She will also be taking “Betsy,” the JCC’s portable “STEAM COW” (Cart on Wheels) from classroom to classroom and to the Just4Kids afterschool program.

“Next year, we will be opening a JCC STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Lab in the fall,” said Snyder. She added that the program is growing much faster than anticipated. Snyder said that to mark the end of the second year of the STEAM program, the ECC would be holding a Family STEAM Challenge on Sunday, June 10. 

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