By Camille Davis
Special to the AFRO

STEM-and-STEAM frameworks are being incorporated in District of Columbia Public and Charter Schools, and Jasmine Byrd’s Party Time STEAMing Engineers is contributing a great deal to the curriculum. 

As an Educational Researcher, Byrd projects the next generation of leaders to be those with access and early awareness of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). As an effort to brand STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) as an out-of-school activity, Byrd opened the District’s first Kid’s Makerspace on Dec. 23 at 205 Upshur Street N.W. Washington, D.C.

The Party Time STEAMing Engineers DC Kid’s Makerspace functions as a drop-in activity space that, as Byrd explained, “bridges exploratory education with children’s entertainment.”

Children playing at Party Time STEAMing Engineers DC Kids Marketplace, which opened Dec. 23 at 205 Upshur Street N.W., Washington, D.C. (Courtesy Photo)

“The District now has a party facility that is STEAM focused. The Makerspace allows children to imagine, design, and innovate at an early age,” Byrd said.

Byrd believes the Party Time STEAMing Engineers DC Kid’s Makerspace is ideal for children, ages two to 12. 

“STEAM in early-childhood development is important because it introduces STEM to children early, creating early awareness and industry in STEM.”

She also discussed the benefits of STEM education in relation to children’s development and the future of the world.

“STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy,” said Byrd.

Through her out-of-school, fun program, children will unconsciously learn science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics during their drop-in sessions, while “enjoying creating slime, creating physical explosion and freedom to explore various art mediums to create something tangible to take home,” Byrd said.

Local residents look forward to Monday’s grand opening of the DC Kid’s Makerspace, and plan to attend the ribbon cutting in support.

“As a resident born and raised in Northwest, D.C. specifically, in the Petworth area, I have witnessed firsthand the development of this area,” said Ashlea Johnson, 33, a mother of two young girls, ages 13 and seven. “I have watched businesses come and go, but never have I seen a space designated specifically for children interested in STEAM education.” 

“[The Party Time STEAMing Engineers DC Kid’s Makerspace] will allow local children the opportunity to explore career spaces otherwise deemed unattractive and unattainable, in what many consider an urban setting,” Johnson added.

While reading is “fundamental;” so is access. Rather than only aspiring towards football-and-basketball careers as a way to make it “out” or “to the top,” with Out-of-School programming centered around education, area youth are exposed earlier in life to creativity, innovation and problem solving- which in turn is said to help make them young people welll-rounded and confident. 

Uptown resident and D.C. native Martin Bond, 34, was one of the “lucky ones,” and said he can attest, first hand, to the importance of community programs such as these. 

 “As a kid growing up ‘East’ of Rock Creek Park and going to schools in Upper Northwest, I was always afforded the quality of education and life my parents worked hard for. Hyde, Fillmore Arts Center, Jelleff Boys and Girls Club, Mann, Annunciation, were among schools I attended that helped shape and groom me into the man I am today,” Bond said.  “This is why I believe institutions like DC Kid’s Makerspace is so important for the youth of today.” 

“We must preserve the culture of our city for our youth, and thus provide a place where they are able to learn and grow to believe in themselves,” he added.