Is your kid a LEGO guru? Does he love to fix broken toys? Or maybe she likes to see how robots work? If so, it sounds like a STEM-focused class may be right up you child’s alley. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; they’re four areas that students (particularly women) have previously been discouraged from pursuing.
But these spots in NJ offer great after-school and weekend STEM classes that can help kids think critically and creatively while fostering their curiosity along the way.
Location: The Hudson School, 601 Park Avenue, Hoboken; Boys and Girls Club, 225 Morris Boulevard, Jersey City
Details: The AlphaMinds program believes that kids don’t have to memorize facts to appreciate learning. Moreover, their classes encourage students to think critically about what they’ve learned. Since kids learn at different levels, their small classes are based on interests and abilities, not age. The academy can give students extra help in a subject or advanced instruction beyond what they’re getting at school. Class offerings include chess, coding, math, engineering, essay writing and Russian language immersion.
More info: Visit www.alphamindsacademy.com or call 201-844-8535
Bricks 4 Kids
Location: Around NJ
Details: At Bricks 4 Kids, students learn, build and play with LEGO bricks. Classes – for kids three to 13 – are designed to teach STEM fundamentals in a fun way. In fact, they offer after-school enrichment classes, week-long summer camps, birthday parties and more. Kids focus on specially designed projects that help them solve problems and appreciate how things work, all while having fun, of course. Even preschoolers can take part in the action; they can explore brightly-colored DUPLO Bricks. Once a week over six weeks, they’ll build a model as they learn patterns, colors, counting, letter recognition, vocabulary and other skills.
More info: Visit www.bricks4kidz.com or call 904-824-3133
Little Ivy Academy
Location: Around NJ
Details: Students in kindergarten through eighth grade can take advantage of the academy’s programs. In “The Robots Are Coming” lab courses, projects range from basic to more challenging builds to accommodate beginner through advanced students. Beyond that, kids can take an invention from idea to functional product at an “InventionMakers” class; this is where students work with age-appropriate electronics systems to make, design and build their own creations. If you sign your child up for “WebDevelopers Internet Rockstars,” they’ll use CSS, HTML and more to develop a working website.
More info: Visit www.littleivyacademy.com or call 201-444-8400
Montclair Learning Center
Location: 360 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair
Details: This small, independent center offers STEM-related educational programs throughout the year for kids in grades kindergarten to eighth. During fall, most classes are a month long. In the Junior Robotics class, students are introduced to the basics of robotics while working hands-on with various robotics systems. In Little Engineers, three to five-year-olds play and tinker with construction, machine, robotics and other STEM-related kits. Hands-on learning is emphasized as kids discover STEM concepts in a fun way.
More info: Visit www.mlcplus.com or call 973-744-7464
Clicks and Bricks Learning Center
Location: 20 Hillside Avenue, Metuchen
Details: The weekly classes here introduce kids to the basics of STEM, integrating LEGO materials with laptops and kids’ imaginations. Kids listen to a short lesson, then build, program and modify their designs. Afterwards, they discuss how to make their projects faster, more efficient, sturdier or more fun. Want to celebrate a birthday at Clicks and Bricks Learning Center? The birthday child and their friends are given two hours to explore, create and participate in challenges. Adding an extra half hour to the party gives kids a chance to create a take-home build, or add pizza and cake for a complete party experience. There’s also an open play on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm when kids can use materials unrestricted.
More info: Visit www.clicksandbrickslc.com or call 732-243-9393
Location(s): Manalapan, Freehold, Hoboken
Details: Krubots wants to help build kids’ STEM knowledge while incorporating language arts lessons. Their LEGO Robotics class is geared toward kids who’ve had little exposure to robotics. Kids follow step-by-step, on-screen directions to build and then program their robotics, with the help of their instructor. They want kids to learn by making, doing and creating things themselves, not just watching instructors have all the fun. Those who are ready can write more complex programs. Even young learners ages four to six can enroll in the class, as long as they can work in a team.
More info: Visit www.krubots.com or call 732-218-9609
Location:One Greenwood Avenue, Suite 101, Montclair; 60 Commerce Way F, Totowa
Details: L3 Academy is short for Lifelong Learning Academy. It aims to help kids think critically and solve problems. They believe that learning takes time and should have continuity. That’s why most of their classes and programs build upon one another (though they can be taken individually). They offer a robotics club specifically for those who want to explore projects beyond the build. Students also form teams and strive to meet the challenges issued by both the noncompetitive and competitive LEGO leagues. Kids are encouraged to explore new interests or dive deeper into current ones, making new friends and hanging out with old ones along the way.
More info: Visit www.l3-academy.com or call 973-783-8333
Location: 3322 Route 22 West, Building 15, #1503, Branchburg
Details: Storming Robots has robotics engineering and technology education year-round for kids in grade four to 12. Their high school programs even offer college-level learning. Students learn STEM with hands-on, application-based robotics projects. They build robots from scratch and automate them with programming languages. Kids can join the Storming Robots Robotics Club, an engineering program that teaches them about robotics and helps strengthen engineering skills.
More info: Visit www.stormingrobots.com or call 908-595-1010
Location: 34 Maple Street, Summit
Details: A few years ago, the Robot Revolution owners’ kids were interested in robotics competitions. These parents jumped at the chance to coach their children. The kids weren’t too successful at their first competition, but loved it so much that they kept at it. By the next go-around, after learning programming and building fundamentals, they did much better. The owners saw the value of robotics for their kids and wanted others to have the same experience. At Robot Revolution, all fall students participate in a friendly competition where teams work together to accomplish a task. They feel this approach is the best way to keep young engineers’ minds engaged and learning. Students see how their design works at the competition and then return to the lab to improve it.
More info: Visit www.robotrevolution.net/ or call 908-608-8896
Engineering for Kids
Location: Around NJ
Details: At Engineering for Kids, students ages four to 14 learn STEM in a fun and challenging way at their classes, camps, clubs and parties. Engineering concepts are taught through hands-on learning. Junior Engineers – pre-k to second graders – focus on exploration with free-play, guided projects and easy-to-understand lessons; for example, they might take an aerospace engineering class where they learn about aircraft and space designs. During an electrical engineering class, third to fifth graders design, create, test and refine basic electronics and circuits. In sixth- to eighth-grade classes, kids use teamwork to achieve their goals; students design and program robots to respond to stimulated disaster situations.
More info: Visit engineeringforkids.com or call the individual locations.