Maryville's New Interactive STEM Studio Offers Classes, Fosters Innovative Thinking

For kids with big ideas and even bigger dreams, activities in the classroom help fire up their enthusiasm for all things math and science. But when that excitement extends beyond the school day, the fun really takes off!

At Maryville University’s Interactive STEM Studio, today’s kids are gearing up to become tomorrow’s trailblazers and innovators. By providing science, technology, engineering, and math programming led by certified faculty, Maryville helps students ages four to 16 boost their creative thinking skills and unleash their inner genius through immersive, hands-on, and play-based learning experiences.

The Interactive STEM Studio is the brainchild of Maryville University’s Center for Access and Achievement (CA2). For the past 10 years, CA2 has hosted its popular STEM summer camp series on the Maryville campus, but the push by families for ongoing programming prompted the University to think outside the box when searching for a kid-friendly space during the school year. In September 2023, CA2 opened the doors to the new studio inside Chesterfield Mall to build on what kids are learning in the classroom through weeknight and weekend classes.

“The goal of CA2 and the STEM Studio is to help kids achieve success in life and their future professions,” explained Dr. Angelina Moehlmann, a program manager for CA2. “We really want to provide students with experiences they may not get in a traditional classroom and get them excited about opportunities in the STEM field by introducing them to up-and-coming concepts that will prepare them for tomorrow’s careers.”

The Studio’s next session starts November 4 and features a variety of age-appropriate courses designed around kids’ favorite play activities, from Minecraft to LEGO®. For instance, Mario Maker lets aspiring game designers create their own virtual adventures with the Super Mario Bros. as their guide. Future engineers can become master builders by fusing together LEGO blocks and artificial intelligence, while heroes-in-training can use drones to tackle simulated rescue missions.

In addition, the Studio offers teens ages 12-16 the chance to try their hand at an ongoing design challenge. TEEN STEM Adventures in Design Thinking inspires participants to develop innovative solutions to real-world challenges by brainstorming, testing, and presenting their design prototypes.

While all sessions are built to accelerate STEM education, according to Dr. Moehlmann, the skills students develop extend to all areas of learning.

“Overall, a lot of what we teach centers on the grade-level STEM knowledge kids have and pushing them beyond the boundaries they know. But, we also promote those soft skills all kids need – collaborating and communicating with others, becoming creative problem solvers, finding the confidence to be leaders. These are skills they need in the future and can utilize today.”

Focused on kids, designed around families

Since the Studio opened, the response from kids and their families has been incredibly positive, not just because of the variety of programs available, but because they have a voice in how CA2 curates their classes.

Said Dr. Moehlmann, “We’ve worked closely with kids and parents to get their feedback and design what works for them. For instance, if we hear, ‘We really want to continue these drone activities,’ we’re going to find new ways to expand on that topic. I think that’s the power in not having a set curriculum we have to follow – we can go with the interests of the kids.”

CA2 strives to offer opportunities to meet families’ diverse schedules and needs as well. Besides its traditional afterschool-enrichment weeknight and weekend sessions, the Studio features six-week homeschool programs taught in the afternoons by current and retired teachers. In addition, kids who are Cub Scouts can participate in Lion & Tiger Adventure Loop workshops focused on motion and forces, engineering, construction, and gaming. And, of course, STEM-themed birthday parties, from Barbie and Crafty Creations to Minecraft and Slime, are available for the child in your life.

Kids who want to try out the Studio before signing up for an entire session can pop into one of its Holiday Drop & Shop events throughout the month of December. While they have fun with holiday-focused STEM activities, crafts, and games, you can enjoy three hours of stress-free, uninterrupted shopping time. A Winter Break Program from December 27-29 also lets participants explore the fun of STEM instead of being stuck at home.

The Interactive STEM Studio is currently enrolling for all of its fall and holiday programs. To learn more or to register your child, visit www.maryvillestemstudio.com or call 314-281-1120.

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge has written for STL Parent for more than 12 years. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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