We conceived the idea for Vegas PBS STEAM Camp in May 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to help prevent learning loss amidst months of school closures. At that time, estimates were that 11 percent of households with school-aged children in our county did not have internet access. We knew we could use our airwaves to provide unique, localized content to promote learning at home amidst this digital divide.
To determine the subject matter of the program, we assessed our state’s needs, including a review of the State of Nevada Advisory Council on STEM Strategic Plan, which says, “Not enough Nevada students are prepared for the challenging STEM jobs of Nevada’s economy.” Furthermore, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Science, Innovation & Technology states, “One-third of boys and girls lose an interest in science by the fourth grade and a child’s interest in STEM is largely formed by the time he or she reaches upper elementary and middle school.” We wanted this new program to address these needs, by sparking children’s curiosity in STEAM through accessible, engaging, and high-quality content with real-world ties to Southern Nevada.
To bring the concept to fruition, we collaborated with science and curriculum experts to develop a framework for the program. Then, we established partnerships with multiple community organizations, such as the Nevada Department of Transportation and the National Weather Service, to transport kids directly to where STEAM is happening in Southern Nevada. These child-friendly segments answered questions like, “How are bridges built?” and “How do we measure the weather?” to demonstrate how STEAM extends beyond just subjects learned in school—it helps improve our lives and community!
Every episode includes a variety of simple, fun, hands-on projects teachers or families can do with children to extend the show’s learning goals, using common household items, with local students modeling how they used science inquiry and engineering design practices to complete the tasks. Viewers are encouraged to complete the projects at home and share photos and videos of their work through the Vegas PBS STEAM Camp website or by tagging us on social media. Local librarians close each program by sharing books available for check out to promote further exploration. Lesson plans are available for each episode for use within afterschool and summer settings.