Pictured above (from left): computer science educator Brian Beck, TAME Chapter Coordinator Janice Trees, San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts educator Beckah Coleman, and 4H parent volunteer Annette Guerrero.
“It’s great that we can get our students involved. They’re needed. We don’t want to lose our kids to the big city. We’d like them to stay in the area and live and work and keep the economy vibrant.”
Janice Trees is the Chapter Coordinator for TAME's newest Chapter in San Angelo, and a parent leader for the TAME/Tom Green County 4H science program.
There’s a lot of buzz about the San Angelo TAME club. What’s it all about?
The San Angelo TAME club provides opportunities for learning and leadership for students in San Angelo and the surrounding areas. We try to give kids a taste of everything -- science, engineering, rocketry, art, bio-medicine, even earthquakes!
It’s the perfect time for this kind of program. The engineering and energy industry is booming out here. The population is growing and we see trucks coming in from all over. Angelo State University will start offering a civil engineering degree program next year and in 2016 they will break ground on
a new engineering building.
Right now, we’re about to start a computer science program with the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. Beckah Coleman, the museum educator, got a grant to integrate art and science, and we’re working with Brian Beck with the Texas Open Source Initiative to teach kids how to program apps for the museum. The museum has a big ceramic sculpture collection, so first the kids will learn how to render the sculptures in 3D to make replicas, and they’ll also get to contact the artists. Then they’ll program apps for virtual tours of the museum. We expect this program to go on for years, so these kids will grow with it. Brian is also teaching students how to refurbish old computers.
It’s important for kids not just to learn, but to teach and give back to the community. We’re building leadership. We have a Student Advisory Board that weighs in on club activities for the year, and this year we’ll bring in the TAME Math & Science Competitions.
What are some of the challenges for your chapter?
Distance is a big challenge. We’re in TEA Region 15, which covers 250,000 miles! My son wants to be an engineer, and when I called the TEA to find out about engineering classes in the area, she said the closest one was in Del Rio. That’s three and a half hours away. Even now, I travel half an hour into town and other students come from even further away.
It’s hard for students and educators in rural areas to have the same access to things as in cities. Even equipment is hard to come by. A lot of kids in our area are home-schooled or go to small private schools that don’t have technology or science labs. TAME connects us not just to a STEM curriculum, but to experts.
Who’s involved in the San Angelo TAME club?
There’s been a really great reception to what we do. Dr. David Bixler, who heads up the Physics Department at Angelo State, is a big supporter, and the 4H extension agents are really behind us.
We had 12 students in the 4H science program, and now that we added TAME we’ve got 50 students between 5 and 16 years old. There are a lot of parents involved, so we have lots of hands. One set of parents takes TAME activities and make them work for the youngest kids. The older kids help out, and this helps them develop teaching and leadership skills.
I credit TAME with their curriculum, their goals, and their support. I can always call the TAME office for help. It’s so different from anything else that’s here, and the kids get really excited about being at places where they don’t usually get to be, like the university and the museum. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.
How did you get involved with TAME?
I first heard about TAME this past summer. Our local county library had invited the Trailblazer bus, so I took my kids and some local kids to visit. Afterwards, I called to see if there was a local TAME club that we could join, but the closest one was in Odessa, two hours away, so I started one here with 4H.
I’ve been a leader in the science program for the Tom Green County 4H club for several years and have been helping with the 4H robotics programs. 4H is still about agriculture, but about seven years ago they decided to include science, engineering, and technology education. TAME and 4H are a great fit.
We’re applying for a grant for next year – it’s actually a little scary how fast it’s expanding!
A lot of these kids have been working together for years, and it’s great to see kids who are shy, especially girls, start to step up and contribute. I’m hoping more girls will feel comfortable with computer programming. One girl decided she wasn't that interested in engineering, but she really wanted to teach science to the little kids. There’s enough diversity that every kid can find a place for themselves.
It’s great that we can get our students involved. They’re needed. We don’t want to lose our kids to the big city. We’d like them to stay in the area and live and work and keep the economy vibrant.
You can follow the progress of Janice's students on the San Angelo TAME Facebook Page, with featured albums on their Rubber Band Cars, Earthquake Challenge, Rockets to the Rescue, and more.