One of the many hats I wear, in my endeavor to be active in and supportive of our community, is as a board member of a local non-profit, Shared Science. You may recall I wrote about my experiences as the coach of a FIRST LEGO League robotics team in 2011. Well, that opportunity came out of my involvement with Shared Science.
Shared Science is the "baby" of a few creative parents who saw a need to bring more science and math to our kids' lives. So they brought it to the schools in the form of after-school classes in LEGO play and engineering, and school robotics teams. Shared Science is growing and trying to reach more kids every year, but it is a slow process to grow a non-profit "baby" into a more mature organization. It takes more volunteer hours than you could ever possibly imagine, unless you have done it yourself!
Of course, the rewards are significant. Seeing the light of discovery shine in the eyes of kids learning about machines, computer programming, robotics and engineering is exciting. In a big city with one of the most diverse populations in the country, it makes sense that our kids should have access to STEM opportunities--that's Science, Math, Engineering and Technology--if they are going to grow up and find careers that are fulfilling and pay more than minimum wage. That is a big reason I got involved with Shared Science--I saw a dearth of opportunities for Long Beach kids, and no hope in sight with public school budgets being decimated every year.
So a few weeks ago I had the privilege of participating in a Shared Science event that was made possible by a LEGO Education Showcase Grant from Education Blueprints Association. This event was free and open to all kids and it was more fun than I ever expected. As we set up the tables with tubs of thousands of donated LEGO bricks, we could barely stop the kids from bursting through the doors. We kept catching little interlopers who had managed to sneak past the sentries to get their hands on the LEGO, seriously! LEGO had provided every material necessary, from the fliers to go to families, media alerts, and signage, to make our event successful.
In the end, all it took was pouring LEGO onto the tables, setting up a few laptops and robots, and letting the kids' imaginations fly. No restrictions on what or how it was made. So often, as parents and educators, we feel we must guide and direct what our kids are doing, but in this instance we placed no limits on their innovation. The result was invigorating and inspirational. Kids made fabulous creations and proudly stood in front of an assembled group to present them. The kids ages were anywhere from pre-school to middle school, and they all shared in the delight of free, limitless creation. It made me feel that all our hard work had been truly worth the effort.
Shared Science hopes to bring the joy of learning and creation to as many Long Beach students as possible in the next few years. We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help run our programs. This summer we are hosting summer camps and next school year we are bringing after school classes to Longfellow Elementary. If you are interested in classes for your child, or you have a passion for LEGO, do not hesitate to contact us. Our website has all the info: www.sharedsciencefun.org.