A museum in Corona gave 50 children from New York City homeless shelters a hands-on STEM experience.
On Monday, Aug. 20, kids from three Win-operated shelters in Manhattan and Queens experienced a day of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at the New York Hall of Science at 47-01 111th St. Win, formerly known as “Women in Need,” collaborated with AT&T for the field trip. The company’s support of the field trip is part of their “Summer of STEM” which aims to introduce youth in the five boroughs to essential tech skills.
The children, many of whom also attend New York City public schools, had the opportunity to engage in activities like creating their own machines at the design lab, watching educational demonstrations and building structures in the facility’s Imagination Playground, comprised of big, soft building blocks.
“Some of them have not had a chance to really be exposed to building, be exposed to imagination, and so this is a very freeing time for them,” said Tamara Ortiz, the director of Children’s Services for Win, which operates Camp Win.
The camp is an immersive, summer-long program that emphasizes education in STEM and the arts for the nearly 700 children currently living in Win Shelters. The organization’s president and CEO is Christine Quinn, who helps to operate 11 family shelters across New York City.
Ortiz joined the organization 22 years ago as a college student who had “completely different endeavors.” She said that what attracted her to stay at Win was the aspect of giving back to the community and also the gratitude she receives from the children as their caretakers.
“I think it just takes a moment to really get to know a child and they can really find a genuine passion in an individual. They immediately receive you like family,” Ortiz shared.
Ortiz said that an important factor of the museum field trip was to create an itinerary to give the children a sense of order and stability.
“We designed an itinerary that kinda tells you what the day will be like. We like them to know what happens next. I think it could be very confusing,” she said. “We told them what the day was gonna be like. We did trivia on the bus about science and the city, and that was fun.”
She added that the kids were “super excited” to come to the museum and were lined up at 7:30 in the morning for their 10 a.m. field trip.
Robin White, the area manager of external affairs at AT&T, said that over the past five years the company has spent over $10 million to fund STEM education in New York City. In addition, they have also donated an additional $1 million to local education programs, which allowed hundreds of young people to have access to these programs.
This year AT&T expanded its funding to arts and science programs to support homeless youth and people in foster care in the city. Other collaborations they have supported over the past five years include Girls Who Code, All Star Code and DreamYard.
“We want to ensure that all students are able to have their eyes opened to STEM opportunities and hands-on experiences with technology especially,” White said.
“These students weren’t necessarily getting the same opportunities as other students, whether because they don’t have STEM in schools or they just don’t have a way to access this outside of school. So we wanted to support this unique opportunity for them to come to the Hall of Science,” she added.