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NMSU expands SEMAA program to Albuquerque in February

The New Mexico State University STEM Outreach Center is expanding its 21st Century After-School Program to four schools in Albuquerque starting in mid-February. The program will include the Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA).

Woman on left shows child a project
Susan Brown, director of the NMSU STEM Outreach Center, shows children activities in the Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) lab. The NMSU STEM Outreach Center is expanding its 21st Century After-School Program to four schools in Albuquerque starting in mid-February with the SEMAA program. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

NMSU STEM Outreach Director Susan Brown said she is thrilled to bring the successful SEMAA program to Albuquerque.

"We are taking over their after-school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) program with SEMAA," Brown said. "The curriculum changes all the time. We have been doing this for 14 years, but the curriculum is completely different, from when we started."

The SEMAA program is a free after-school program that is held once a week. The four schools in Albuquerque include Hayes Middle School (grades 6-8), Eubank Elementary (K-5), Hodgin Elementary (K-5) and Academic Charter (K-8). The NMSU STEM Outreach Center provides all the curriculum and resources for each grade at each school.

"Everything is STEM related, because that's where the jobs are right now," Brown said. "We have to get kids excited about STEM. It's so easy. Science is so easy, because it's so much fun. Math is fun, when you apply it. If they have to use math in order to solve a problem, so they can put a robot together then it's fun. Learning can be fun, and it should be fun.

"All of our curriculum is inquiry based," she said. "It's relevant and applies to the real world. If there is something that NASA is doing, we make sure we have activities that will coincide with what is in the news. Students work in groups, and they have projects that include problem solving and creative things. It's teaching 21st Century skills that they need, because they have a whole big future ahead of them."

Four staff members from the NMSU STEM Outreach Center will lead a professional development course on Feb. 13 in Albuquerque for the SEMAA teachers, and the after-school program will begin the following week. The NMSU STEM Outreach Center provides each teacher with all the supplies, resources and curriculum they need, organized by week, to teach the program.

"The teachers are never left alone," Brown said. "The teachers are the keystone to this whole program."

In addition, SEMAA summer camps will be offered in Albuquerque starting in June 2014.

In the 14-year history of the SEMAA program, about 29,000 children have participated. Currently, SEMAA is in all middle and elementary schools in the Gadsden and Las Cruces Public School districts.

"We did an evaluation and kids that stayed with us for three years or longer, their science and math scores on the New Mexico standardized tests are higher than non-SEMAA students," she said. "We were really excited about that."

The SEMAA program is expanding to Albuquerque with an award of $25,000 to $30,000 from the 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC), a federal program that began five years ago. Brown and Cristina Abeyta, NMSU STEM Outreach Center 21st CCLC program coordinator, were contacted by Diana Orozco, Albuquerque 21st CCLC program coordinator, and Angelo Jaramillo, 21st CCLC state coordinator, about expansion to central New Mexico.

Brown said she has aspired to extend the SEMAA program to other parts of the state because the need is vital.

"If kids have a high-quality after-school program, it really makes a difference," she said.

For more information on the NMSU STEM Outreach Center and SEMAA, visit www.stem.education.nmsu.edu.