The Arizona Science Center’s Mobile Science on Wheels unit visited the Camp Verde Community Library on August 31st for an evening of STEM activities, giveaways and more.
CVCL said the casual open house-style event is designed to fit family schedules.
As soon as the event tables were set, eager families began exploring the Science Center’s offerings, which included free school supplies, books and a variety of activities.
“All of the supplies we’re giving out are focused on going back to school, but the main focus of this particular program is to help families after COVID-19 who are trying to recover from it,” Educator and Assistant Manager for Science on Wheels said Vanessa Gutierrez.
Activities included a “shape maker” where children could create their own 2D and 3D shapes, and an interactive planet density game that used cups filled with change to represent the different weights of the planets in our solar system.
Perhaps the most exciting activity for both children and parents was the space cards.
“This particular activity is really cool,” Gutierrez said. “We are partnering with Blue Origin [Aerospace Company]. Families and kids can write their names and addresses and draw a little drawing on the back and we’ll send it to the next thing going into space. Once we get it back, we’ll stamp it with the “I’ve Been to Space” stamp and send it back to them.
Gutierrez said the mobile unit often travels to underserved communities and offers a variety of programs in addition to Science on Wheels, such as the Native Health program.
“With Native Health, we work with them to provide virtual kits of supplies that they can make at home,” she said.
One example of a virtual kit project is a “scratching bot” that is produced by attaching noodles and markers to an electric toothbrush.
“It’s basically an oversized writing pen,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez described additional outreach programs that provide opportunities to learn about different cultural traditions, such as working with natural dyes.
“We’re getting into different kinds of Latin American cultural paints, going to Peru, to Colombia,” she said. “We do a second part where we focus on native plants and flowers that are native here and take a cloth and tap them to make a print.”
“It’s really fun and a great way to vent some anger,” she laughed.
Gutierrez described common traits among the children she works with.
“They are grateful,” she said. “They don’t want to take too many supplies because they don’t want to take away from someone who is in need.”
Gutierrez said the Science Center is always trying to reach out to children, parents, libraries and resource centers.
“We always wonder if there is a lack in the community; we don’t want to see it, we want to fill it,” she said. “It’s really important that you connect with us just as much as we connect with them.”
While the Science Center receives funding from various corporations such as Boeing, Ford Motor Company and Microsoft-Intel, Gutierrez said the center also accepts donations.
For Science on Wheels, the center receives funding from AZ OnTrack, a state-funded initiative designed to address the learning loss that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic.
“With this particular program and funding with AZ OnTrack, we’ve been able to go to every single county, which is amazing,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve been to some, a little bit more than others, but our real hit is the rural communities to really try and get the word out there.”