NMSU takes STEM to Farmington

Stephanie Smetak, a fifth-grade teacher at Country Club Elementary School in Farmington, New Mexico, teaches a stop-motion class that blends learning and technology for her students.

Smetak says she enjoys teaching the class, which was developed by the STEM Outreach Center at NMSU. Not only does she get to watch students learn about and grow their technology skills, she also learns certain elements alongside them.

“Students are always more willing than I am to take the time and fidget with something to get it right, whereas I just want to Google it and be done,” Smetak says.

When Smetak once experienced difficulties displaying videos on the class projector, one of her students was able to fix it.

“When he did, he jumped up, yelled and had the biggest smile on his face,” Smetak says.

A student at Ladera Del Norte Elementary School in Farmington, New Mexico, participates in an art and math activity during a program offered by the STEM Outreach Center at NMSU.

After-school programs have proven especially successful for minority and low-income populations who are traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields. Student demographics for the Farmington district show a 62.2 percent minority population, and 55 percent of the Farmington district is low-income. 

To this end, the Arizona Public Service Foundation awarded $50,000 to the NMSU Foundation to support the STEM Outreach Center in continuing its successful out-of-school-time STEM education programs in Farmington. The STEM Outreach Center is part of NMSU’s College of Education, and the programs help students explore math and science through collaborative instruction. This grant is the third from the APS Foundation since 2015, totaling $327,000 in support to establish these programs and provide teacher professional development.

“We are thrilled to work with the Farmington School District because the administration, teachers, students and families are so receptive to providing high-quality, out-of-school-time STEM opportunities in their community,” says Susan Brown, interim dean of the College of Education.

The newest grant will allow the STEM Outreach Center to continue its programs at six sites, benefitting 19 teachers and 370 students. The center offers the programs, “DiMA,” or Digital Media Academy; and “COUNT,” or Creating Opportunities Using Numerical Thinking. DiMA reduces the digital divide by introducing students to technology and showing them it is a powerful tool they can use to create and learn, while COUNT helps students overcome math anxiety by showing them the math in their everyday lives.

Adriana M. Chávez

Fifth-grade students at Country Club Elementary School in Farmington, New Mexico, work on STEM projects during an after-school program. The Arizona Public Service Foundation recently provided $50,000 to the NMSU Foundation in support of NMSU’s STEM Outreach Center, which develops classes used at six sites in Farmington.