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LANL Foundation builds STEAM at Roundhouse

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To mark education as a top priority at the New Mexico State Legislature this January, a who’s who of state officials, leaders in education and research and others spoke at a press conference held by the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation Thursday at the Santa Fe Roundhouse.

The guest speakers came to speak about the importance of a curriculum that emphasizes science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

Former teacher Stephanie Garcia Richard, who is now the state’s land commissioner, threw a little inspiration the audience’s way. Many in the audience were young people who were also at the capitol to explore the opportunities on “STEAM Day,” where the legislature invited many colleges, tech firms and schools to display what they’re doing in the realm of science, technology, engineering art and education.

“I employ 165 New Mexicans, who are just like me and you,” Garcia Richard said. “Some of them went to college for the first time, they are the first ones in their families to go to college,” Garcia Richard said. “I get to employ them as biologists, wildlife specialists, as archaeologists.”

Garcia Richard went on to encourage the students in the audience to find a way to combine their love of the outdoors with their love of all things STEAM.

“I just want to encourage all of you to follow that love you have of your state and turn it into something lucrative, something you will enjoy doing for the rest of your life.”

The purpose of STEAM Day was also to inform legislators who would be voting on key pieces of legislation this January designed to enhance STEAM learning in New Mexico’s schools.

Among those at the event were students and teachers involved in Santa Fe’s Piñon Elementary School’s Coding and Robotics Club, headed by teacher Delara Sharma.

“I find that engaging students in STEAM is really rewarding because you have some students who may struggle with basic academics, like reading and math,” Sharma said. “But, you will find exactly those kinds of students engaged in hands on learning.”

Sharma said she started the club at the elementary school level because “that is when they aren’t afraid to try… Hopefully when they get to middle school and high school they will be a lot more receptive to it because they had been successful at this age.”

Other speakers at the event included Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, Cabinet Secretary for Department of Workforce Solutions Bill McCamley, State Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-17) and LANL Foundation CEO Jenny Parks.