By HILLARY GAVAN
Senior staff writer
BELOIT — “Hard is good. That means you are learning.”
That’s what STEM for Kids co-owner Donna Curtis said about the programming her family business offers to area students. Her growing business, which employs 20 people, has been taking its science, technology, engineering and math activities to schools from Janesville to Roscoe.
With STEM skills meaning steady employment in the future, more schools are contacting Donna Curtis and her husband, Gary.
On Friday, STEM for Kids was offering an “in-school field trip” for kindergarteners at Rockton Grade School. Students were set up in rotating stations such as learning to code and programming with Legos, computers and paper activities. Using the ScratchJr software program, students were programming three animals of their choice.
STEM for Kids franchise offers engineering, robotics and computer programming classes. With schools not always having the time or resources to do hands-on activities, the Curtises wanted to help.
The Curtises started their business out of their home where they started offering lessons. With six grown kids, they had a few extra bedrooms to fill up with STEM related goodies from catapults to wee robots. A former elementary school teacher, Curtis was teaching math at Blackhawk Technical College and planning to be a college professor when she started learning about the benefits of teaching kids to code. It not only was a great way for kids to prepare to get a well compensated job one day, but also helped them learn problem solving, critical thinking, how to be creative and have mental grit.
Fast forward to 2018, and they have expanded programming to kindergarten through eighth grade students, with camps such as “Don’t Let it Fall,” an introduction to civil engineering and “I Spy, Eye Spy,” a taste of biomedical engineering. STEM for Kids has grown to offer after-school programs, summer camps, in-school field trips, activities for scout troops and more. The Curtises are running after school programs at Gaston Elementary and McNeel Intermediate School and are in all of the Rockton and Roscoe schools.
“We deliver it to wherever children are that want it,” Curtis said.
Curtis said the most rewarding part of the offerings is seeing kids become comfortable with STEM concepts. While adults may shy away from STEM or problems in general, children can be trained to see working hard and problem solving as a good thing and have positive associations with it.
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