Looking for family fun this weekend?
The Sunnylands Center and Gardens in Rancho Mirage is hosting a family STEAM day from 9:30 am to 2 pm this Saturday.
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Activities will include making balloon cars, paper airplanes and mini ecosystems — sort of like terrariums that kids can take home and watch grow.
Admission, parking and activities are free of charge and available to guests of all ages.
The event was developed in coordination with students from Cathedral City High School’s International Baccalaureate program.
While the event itself is tailored for elementary- and middle school-aged children to learn and have a good time, the high schoolers who helped plan it had a learning experience all their own.
Six students spent a year designing the STEAM day, including recruiting over a dozen volunteers to help them run it on Saturday.
Cathedral City High senior Miguel Ramirez said the experience has taught him and other high-achieving students the importance of teamwork and problem-solving collaboratively.
“We’re used to having to work by ourselves,” he said. “So having everybody working together and hearing all the inputs and even conflicting ideas, you’re not always going to agree with the other person or be on the same page as one another.”
Ramirez said ideas for the day initially ranged from some type of art showcase to what it is now — an event focused on helping younger kids learn about STEAM subjects.
Along the way, students pushed and pulled for their ideas but ultimately agreed to move forward with a unified plan.
“Working as a team, you have to make sure that sort of unit that you have is being held throughout the entirety of planning because as soon as it breaks, the event itself breaks,” Ramirez said.
Cathedral City High students had worked with Sunnylands to coordinate events before the pandemic but never a STEAM day. Past graduates had run programs focused on music and space as well as social media and mindfulness.
But this year’s event really drives home an important point for Ramirez and his peers: Access to STEAM at an early age matters.
“(Hopefully) we can instill an interest or something memorable for them that they can latch on to and take with them the rest of their lives,” Ramirez said.
“I think all of us in the IB program sort of had a moment — maybe it was a math test that we passed or a science project — that really got us interested in taking on bigger subjects like science and engineering and, thus, leading us on this pathway of wanting to go to college,” he added.
Ramirez aspires to be a family doctor because of positive experiences he had with his pediatrician.
His peer, senior Hector Gonzalez, who also planned the event, wants to become a computer engineer.
“I just kind of grew up with technology because my brother was really into it, and I would always see him taking apart the computer and see the cool hardware that’s incorporated in it,” he said. “So, I just kind of got interested in that and have always had a passion for math and science.”
But for children who grow up without that extra computer to deconstruct and without that sibling to egg them on, maybe Saturday’s event can serve as their spark of curiosity.
Whether it’s making a paper plane and watching it fly or planting a seedling and watching it grow, these teenagers are hoping to lead younger kids Saturday to their own aha moment.
Jonathan Horwitz covers education for The Desert Sun. Reach him at [email protected] or @Writes_Jonathan.