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GALLERY: Summer STEAM keeps students in learning mode
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It’s been one week since Summer STEAM relaunched at Jefferson Elementary, enough time for 8-year-olds Aria Srey and Aubrii VanErp to decide the best part of the day is “lunch, recess and breakfast.”

Srey said she likes the dino camp, where she played with kinetic sand (sand coated with silicone oil that allows it to stick together) on Monday. VanErp added she got to play with water balloons in the camp she attended.

Aubrii VanErp, left, and Aria Srey, both 8, hopped off the swings during Summer STEAM recess to pose for a photo. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Ridwan Nyktar, 8, plays on the swings during Summer STEAM recess at Jefferson Elementary. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Landyn Welch, left, and Callie McCrohan shared the Buddy Bench during Summer STEAM recess. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

“I like everything,” said Charlotte Gardner, 8, during recess.

Added Kyndal Keilen, 8: “I like the Helping Hands [camp]. I think it’s really cool. You can do arts and crafts there.”

Rilynn Gregoire, 6, said, “My favorite part of coming here is seeing my friends.”

Bricyn Thompson, 8, climbed above the jungle gym at Jefferson Elementary during Summer STEAM. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Caden Steeves, 8, tried out the monkey bar rings on the Jefferson Elementary playground during Summer STEAM. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Jatziri Martinez Contreras, left, and Yaretzi Cisneros, both 8, posed for a picture during Summer STEAM on the Jefferson Elementary playground. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

A total of 536 students enrolled in Summer STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), hosted at Jefferson Elementary and Faribault Middle School. Using ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funding, the Faribault school district expanded its offering of Summer STEAM from the usual six weeks to nine weeks.

“This year is the biggest it’s ever been, and it’s getting more inclusive every year by involving preK and SPED (special education),” said Taylor Wertish, Summer STEAM coordinator.

Isra Dayib, left, and Minhaj Rasin pose near the climbing wall at Jefferson Elementary during Summer STEAM. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

At Faribault Middle School, students gathered in the cafeteria Monday for a calming session during Summer STEAM. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

PreK students, or those who are at least 4 years old, and students receiving special education were invited to join Summer STEAM for the first time this year. Summer STEAM also has two liaisons, who communicate with families who speak either Spanish or Somali as a first language.

Monday through Thursday, students meet at either Jefferson Elementary or Faribault Middle School, depending on their age, and participate in learning activities as well as fun hands-on projects and crafts.

Six-year-olds Dominic Bauer, left, and Barrett Cowan made bird house Monday morning during Summer STEAM at Jefferson Elementary. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Garrett Hachfeld, 6, shows off the mini birdhouse he built during Summer STEAM. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

Summer STEAM teachers developed themes for their afternoon sessions, which last three weeks each. During these camps at Jefferson, students may choose to learn about photography and scrapbooking, conduct backyard experiments, engage in a community service project or learn about a topic like camping, animals or dinosaurs. These camps are offered to each grade level except for preK. Those students stay in one class throughout the day.

At Faribault Middle School, camps focus on topics like simple machines, nature, outer space, board games, friendship, filmmaking, photography and scrapbooking. This week, 74 students will board a bus to go to a Twins game through Summer STEAM.

“Cabin Time” is an opportunity for students to wind down by reading a book or doing something else to relax. For the first time in a year and a half, students can check out books in person at the media center. During the pandemic, students checked out books online.

The media center also serves as a “maker space” where students create projects with Legos, K’Nex, and other tools for exercising their imaginations. Jefferson media specialist Chris Paschke will continue lessons on concepts like stop motion animation, coding and using a green screen with video-making as part of the students’ library time during the school year.

“It’s pretty much a continuation of the school year, and for preK students it may be their first time in a classroom,” Wertish said. “It’s good for them to get that exposure.”