Children learn STEM skills at The Muse

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Children at play can pick up critical skills needed for development in science, technology, engineering and math. So places like The Muse Knoxville create STEM-friendly environments to educate children while they have fun.

Dad Jason Nelms said he was encouraged to find The Muse for his family to visit. He and his wife homeschool their three children. The computer programming professional says it's never too soon for kids to learn STEM skills. "As soon as their curiosity leads them toward the concepts that they get to learn."

Much of the Muse involves self-directed project areas where children can try maneuvering simple machines or constructing art and science projects. At one station, a staff member helped students build bubble bots on Friday. When asked if he knew what science is, homeschooled 5-year-old Jackson Plemons answered, "Science is a fan blowing something like..." as he demonstrated the machine that uses a nine volt battery to power a fan that blows a large bubble.

"I don't really like math that much," responded 7-year-old Adaline Nelms. However, she tried using math-inspired coding software for the first time at The Muse, doing what she perceived as art on a computer screen and in her words, "making a human out of blocks."

Educators see STEM skills as essential for helping students advance toward college and careers. The United States Department of Education reports that in coming years, demand will sharply increase for people qualified for jobs using advanced math and science. Examples of career fields in demand are computer systems analysts, systems software developers and biomedical engineer.

STEM family nights have become annual events at schools around East Tennessee, like the one Thursday night at Mt. Horeb Elementary in Jefferson County. There a science teacher organized a challenge for children to handcraft a miniature catapult capable of launching ping pong balls through hoola hoops. Another teacher gathered recycled materials so students could create their own guitars or drums. Schools like Mt. Horeb also host robotics clubs after school that encourage fun engineering projects.