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Founder, Dr. Calvin Mackie

Cheryl Gerber

Why would dozens of schoolchildren gather on a Saturday morning to learn about pi, forces in motion or magnets? For the kids involved in STEM NOLA, these hands-on experiments in their communities are also a tremendous amount of fun. STEM NOLA’s founder, educator and motivational speaker Dr. Calvin Mackie, explained more about his innovative program.

For all of its current success, STEM NOLA had rather humble beginnings: the program started in Dr. Mackie’s garage. His two young sons expressed an interest in learning more about science experiments at home, so Dr. Mackie gathered up some basic supplies and started doing experiments on Saturdays. A turning point came when his third-grader’s classmates expressed an interest in learning about experiments, too. Dr. Mackie decided to bring this fun approach to STEM education to New Orleans communities. Dr. Mackie, his wife and some friends and family created a platform of delivery to bring this fun science education to over 700 kids in under three years. The Saturday programs are held in sites such as Joe Brown Park and the Tremé Community Center. As the program has grown, he made sure its mission has remained the same: to bring STEM ideas directly to children in their communities.

When STEM NOLA hosts an event in the community, the organization puts kids in touch with some serious scientific minds, as college STEM students and working professionals alike are encouraged to help out. After a 30-minute introduction to the science, technology, engineering or mathematics lesson, the instructors help the kids get involved in the lesson by making something by hand. For instance, students learning about density crafted boats, whereas a lesson on simple machines involved crafting a hydraulic excavation arm. By engaging children with hands-on learning, STEM NOLA encourages kids to get more involved in the lessons, and then share their knowledge with others.

In addition, some projects encourage kids to learn about events in their own backyard. For instance, Dr. Mackie’s favorite build involved a lesson on flood erosion. The kids were provided with aluminum pans, toy houses, artificial turf and supplies such as clay, sand and ice pop sticks to construct a levee. The goal was to see whose levee structure could hold out flood waters the longest. This lesson in particular struck a chord, and Dr. Mackie has been encouraged to replicate it for other students.

Get Involved

At this time, STEM NOLA is in need of corporate sponsorship to help defray the costs of new materials. In addition, college students in STEM fields, as well as any adults who are STEM professionals, are encouraged to get involved with the program as well. Learn more by visiting StemNola.com.



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