WALKER -- More than 200 students and parents gathered to engage in learning activities in science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on games, exercises and demonstrations – made available by the Livingston Parish STEAM Express.

The event was held Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center.

The instructional technology facilitator for Livingston Parish schools, Nikki Lavergne, said the local turnout for the event, the first to be held in Livingston Parish, exceeded expectations.

The STEAM Express is a mobile learning lab equipped with learning activities for students and parents. The mobile classroom can be customized to focus on any field of learning and adapted for any age group.

Christine Bull said her fourth-grade son, Wyatt, is a “science bug,” who recently won first place at Albany Upper Elementary School’s science fair. 

She said her family recently relocated to Livingston Parish from Oregon.

“This is such a fun thing to do for the entire family,” Bull said. “It’s something we can do as a family, and there are activities for all age groups.”

“We were starting to worry if we could manage the number of students who showed up. But that’s a good problem,” Lavergne laughed.

“It’s just so exciting to see our students engage in the learning activities, and then to have their parents engage in the activities with them and they leave with plans to seek out more educational materials on their favorite subjects.”

Shane Landry said he and his wife brought their three children, Matthew, 9; Molly, 7; and Max, 5, all students at South Live Oak Elementary, because they thought it would be fun.

“This event is awesome, and it offers a lot of fun stuff to do with the kids,” Landry said. 

“Plus, these activities peak the kids’ interest in science, giving them something to look forward to learning more about in school and maybe giving them ideas about what they may want to do for a career.”

“I want to be a chemical and electrical engineer,” Matthew Landry told his dad they worked inside the STEAM Express to construct a battery-powered circuit panel to spin a small plastic propeller.

Souad Henni said she too brought her three children – Wascom, a 5-year-old preschooler; Mohamed, a fourth-grader at Juban Parc Elementary; and Khadija, a sixth-grader at Juban Parc Junior High – so they can be exposed to new and exciting things.

“I try to give them choices so they can determine what they like,” Henni said. 

“Besides, if I do nothing with them, then they will just stay at home on the couch, and that’s not what I want. I want them to learn and have fun.”

The Southeastern Louisiana University STEM Coalition sponsors STEM Cafés each month in the Florida Parishes region, said Wendy Conarro, assistant director of SLU’s Math Science Upward Bound.

The coalition teams up with parish school districts and local business sponsors to offer free participation to local families.

“Our STEM Cafés generate an increased interest in learning, and they give parents an opportunity to participate in fun, educational activities with their children,” Conarro said.

The STEM Café was presented by a variety of STEM educational and professional groups from SLU, Northshore Technical & Community College, the Livingston Parish school system, the state of Louisiana and independent STEM educational groups.

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