STEM program includes trips, talks

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, June 29, 2017

A summer initiative will capitalize on interest in cutting-edge learning and a state-of-the-art community center in the Chuckatuck community of Suffolk.

The 2017 Youth STEM Academy Summer Road Tour for students in first through 12th grades will begin with a kick-off celebration on July 8. Twenty-eight students in the academy will meet at Little Bethel Baptist Church in Suffolk to visit James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange.

Tour dates are scheduled through the end of August and are designed for young students in Chuckatuck and the city of Suffolk to experience science, technology, engineering and math opportunities.


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“We’re investing in the Chuckatuck community, and focusing on our young people,” said Simonee Thomas, first lady of Little Bethel Baptist Church and program organizer. “STEM is at the cutting edge of providing these opportunities for our kids.”

The students will be organized by grades at Montpelier and participate in an archaeological lab and ecological activities and even dress up in colonial costumes to act out the constitutional convention of 1787.

“It’s all part of the big picture of community involvement, by having activities for the children and working to provide them,” said Mike Duman, whose company will provide transportation for the participants.

Thomas said this program was inspired by the “overwhelming” interest in STEM activities in the community, with the enrollment roster having been filled in just about a week.

Community members interested in such STEM activities will be able to attend the 11 a.m. STEM Parent/Youth Chuckatuck Community Forum on Saturday at Little Bethel Baptist Church, which will include discussions of planned renovations and improvements for Lone Star Lakes park.

The Department of Parks and Recreation started developing a master plan for Lone Star Lakes Park in 2016, with the assistance of Land Planning Development Associates and Wiley and Wilson. The current capital improvement plan for the city has allotted a total of $2.1 million for the master plan until 2019, according to Duman, who serves on the City Council.

Among the improvements to picnic areas, playgrounds and campgrounds is a proposed, multi-purpose facility, with classrooms for educational opportunities and other uses.

“It could be a ranger station, reception station and community center within one facility,” Duman said.

The master plan will be presented to Suffolk City Council at its fall retreat later this year.

Duman said the success of these proposed renovations and the STEM Academy depends on community interest.

“The earlier we can expose our youth to this type of learning experience, the more it will serve them in preparing for the workforce now and in the future,” he said.