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STEAM Opportunities for Fairfax County Youth

NEW! Forest Preschool

Play. Get Dirty. Learn!

Riverbend Park Forest Preschool will focus on encouraging outdoor learning and knowledge through nature. This play-based forest preschool for kids ages 3-5 will introduce young learners to the park and all it has to offer. Children will spend as much time as possible outside having fun, learning fundamentals and social skills through play in the half-day school.

For more information, visit Riverbend Park Forest Preschool or call 703-759-9018. Registration will begin in early August. 

Riverbend Park is located at 8700 Potomac Hills Street, Great Falls, 22066.

Technology @ FCPL

Technology at the Library is a collection of information, resources, tools and equipment, technology tutors and events offered by various library branches around Fairfax County. For example, "You're Gonna Make It!" is a listing of all the MakerSpace activities for kids offered by most of the county's library branches. Check out this site to discover fun STEAM activities that are free!

Planet Word

Your visit to Planet Word begins beneath a shimmering, mesmerizing Speaking Willow tree. You’ll hear murmurs in hundreds of languages as you pass under the branches of this unique sculpture. Planet Word is a unique hands-on immersive experience that will inspire and renew a love of words, language, and reading in people of all ages. Through unique learning experiences and voice-activated exhibits, Planet Word provides a space to explore words and language that is grounded in a solid understanding of language arts and science. That means the unique exhibits explore how language is used, rather than dictate how it should be used. Linguists would call Planet Word a “descriptive” rather than a “prescriptive” museum. Planet Word engages participants in physical, social, and cognitive play to increase understanding of language. Planet Word s a nonprofit museum offering free admission, but reservations are required. Visit the website to learn more.

Community Arts Collection

Introduced by FCPL in late 2020, the Fairfax Community Arts Collection is a virtual public gallery of art where you can discover the creative talents of your neighbors and share your own. Click here to start exploring and contributing to the collection and its curated online exhibitions. 

As this Community Arts Collection grows, it will showcase work by Fairfax County residents in a variety of categories: illustration, sketch, painting, and graphic design; art and craft creations in various formats and materials; photography; original prose and poetry; and audio and video performance artView the contributions we’ve received so far

Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum Reopens!

The Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, will be flying high again Wednesday after a months-long closure due to COVID-19. The museum reopens to visitors on the 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard becoming the first American in space. For the first time, visitors will be able to see the Mercury Capsule Freedom 7, which carried Shepard into space during a 15-minute flight at 5,000 mph.

Star Wars fans may spot something familiar: A full-sized X-wing Starfighter will be on display, too. The craft that appeared in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has a wingspan of 37 feet. It will be on view in the Restoration Hanger.

Read on for more information.

Virtual Tour of Fairfax County's Pollution Control Plant

YouTube video of the Noman M. Cole Pollution Control Plant.

See how wastewater from homes and businesses is cleaned at the Noman Cole Pollution Prevention Plant in this informative 10 minute video.

More information at​ 



Black Student Fund

For nearly 60 years, the Black Student Fund (BSF) has provided essential advocacy, academic and retention support to academically motivated African American and other underserved students. The goal is to facilitate students' access, admission and graduation from member schools. BSF partners with member schools to provide financial assistance, as well as instruction, evaluations, feedback and monitoring necessary to facilitate the creation and maintenance of a supportive and responsive environment. This community-based nonprofit offers events throughout the year for participants.

Junior Scholars Offers Free Tutoring

Junior Scholars offers free tutoring by students at Virginia's famed Thomas Jefferson High School to 3rd through 6th grade students so that younger students don't fall behind in math and science due to COVID-19. Junior Scholars is a student-run nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that students everywhere have equal opportunities to succeed. They offer free online one-hour sessions by qualified high school tutors, personal 1-on-1 Google Meets and lessons and homework help during the school year.

NOVA SySTEMic Virtual PD for Teachers

NOVA SySTEMic is committed to providing ongoing STEM professional development opportunities for elementary, middle, and high school teachers in the Northern Virginia region during the COVID-19 pandemic. FREE professional development opportunities are provided in the areas of Fabrication, Programming, and Information Technology. Professional development focuses on skills training and application. Additional time is provided for discussion. All participants receive a certificate of attendance for the number of sessions attended in each series. Sessions are hosted via Zoom.

Topics include coding with Scratch, Easel, Intro to Python, Cloud Computing and more.

More information.

Water's Journey

Clean water is our most important resource. To preserve water quality for future generations, we need to understand where water comes from, how we use it, and where it goes when it leaves our homes and businesses. Video.

A beautiful, healthy water ecosystem in Fairfax County.

The Maker Issue - What Is It?

Image of FCPL Maker Magazine.The latest issue of the library's quarterly magazine is full of ideas, inspiration, how-tos and tools for getting motivated, getting creative and getting crafty. Be sure to pick up a print copy of the magazine (plus a free pack of FCPL colored pencils!) at your local branch to experience the interactive elements we've added to the pages themselves — starting with a coloring page on the cover along with a scavenger hunt and more inside. Fun for all ages. Read more.

More about FCPL activities.

Gathering STEAM

The latest episode Gathering STEAM, an NCS-led course for Fairfax County Public Schools students in grades 7-12, focuses on an opportunity for students to get involved in the Clubhouse Network Global RE@CH Media Festival.

The festival encourages youth to create media that describe their personal experiences and gives voice to their ideas, feelings and concerns. Youth gain exposure through exhibition opportunities that showcase their perspectives.

The Clubhouse Network is an international community of more than 100 Clubhouses, 10 of which are located at NCS facilities in Fairfax County. Each Clubhouse provides a creative, safe and free out-of-school learning environment where young people work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas and develop new skills through technology. Read full article.

NOVA SySTEMic Virtual STEMinars!

A new series of virtual STEMinars is being offered by Northern Virginia Community College's NOVA SySTEMic Fab Lab. There are STEMinars on CAD Autodesk, laser technology, VEX robotics, a makerspace challenge and more! All STEMinars are posted here in the STEAM calendar in the Find Opportunities tab.

STEMinars (STEM Workshops) are offered throughout the year to bring new STEM technologies to light and new students into STEM. In response to social distancing measures, the Fab Lab has launched Virtual STEMinars, led by STEM staff and faculty, so you can still learn and explore! Many of these virtual live sessions are offered for FREE and cover a broad range of STEM topics. Past STEMinars can be found here.

STEMinars provide opportunities for participants to learn about a variety of STEM topics through discussions, information sessions, sample projects, or hands-on kits. NOVA staff are working remotely to make additional STEMinars available in the coming months so be on the lookout for new offerings on our website and social media.

More information.

Neighborhood and Community Services After School Virtual Resources

NCS Connects: After School is a virtual platform providing programming for youth and teens during after-school hours, Monday through Friday, 3-6 p.m. Virtual programs began on Monday, Sept. 21 and include academics (i.e., STEAM), family engagement, service learning and youth leadership development. 

NCS Connects: After School

Best Nature Hikes

It's not coding or robotics, but getting outdoors safely will reduce pandemic-induced stress and reinvigorate your love of nature and the environment. This list includes federal, state and local parks with hiking trails, activities and unique features. For example, Scotts Run Nature Preserve in Fairfax County is home to a "grove of ancient hemlocks, whose ancestors migrated here during the last ice age, stands in the nature preserve as a reminder that this region once had a subarctic climate. The park's southern boundary is a major fault zone, a relict geologic feature from a distant past some 520 to 570 million years ago when the rocks were created out of slabs of ocean floor pushed up onto this continent." (Quote from website).

Dive into nature with this list of nearby parks: Back to Nature: The Best Hikes in Our Region

Many of these links feature information to stay pandemic-safe while exploring these beautiful places.

NCS Virtual Activities Including STEAM

NCS Connects logoThe Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) Community Centers and Teen Centers recently launched NCS Connects (#NCSconnects), Fairfax County's first virtual programming platform specifically for youth and teens of all abilities in grades 1-12.

NCS Connects features original, self-directed activities and videos led by familiar staff members, and on-demand resources for kids and parents in five categories: adapted virtual learning, culture, academics, health and wellness, and STEAM.

When NCS centers closed their doors in March due to COVID-19, it was only a matter of weeks before youth members began asking staff when they could come back. Not knowing when that might be, NCS knew they needed a different way to reach teens — and fast. With the recent announcement that Fairfax County summer camps are cancelled, the need for virtual NCS programming has become even more immediate. Read more.


FCPA Virtual Exploration Center

Fairfax County Park Authority Virtual Exploration Center is a collection of resources to help you stay healthy, connected and engaged while our parks are closed. Science and Nature activities and information, Health and Wellness and Culture and History are the categories included. This page will be updated regularly, so check back often for new resources.

For new ideas and updates on content, follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @fairfaxparks.

Local Student Names Mars Rover

Fairfax County student who named Perseverance Mars rover NASA's next rover to Mars will bear the mark of a local seventh grader, Alexander Mather of Lake Braddock Secondary School, when it is launched in summer 2020.

Mather chose the name Perseverance for the rover.

Mather was chosen to pick the new rover's name in the latest "Name the Rover" essay contest, which drew 28,000 entries from K-12 students around the U.S. A public vote with over 770,000 responses decided the winner. Read more.

Perseverance is a robotic scientist weighing just under 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms). The rover's mission includes taking readings of the planet's climate and geology and collecting samples of Martian rocks and dust, all to pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. Read more.

Early Literacy Helps Children Learn — Including STEAM

Fairfax county Public Library(FCPL) has resources that can help parents help their young children develop the skills needed for school readiness by preparing them to learn to read and write. Early literacy - what children know about communication and language before they can actually read and write - is the subject of a comprehensive website of resources for parents and teachers to help young children become ready for school. The site, called simply Early Literacy, includes lists of books, videos, songs and more, by topic. Many STEAM topics are on the list and STEAM kits, which include books and activities, are featured. These resources can aid parents inspire the love and excitement of learning in their children. More information.

NOVA Does STEM at the Fab Lab

NOVA's first STEM Fabrication Lab (Fab Lab), located at the Manassas Campus, will support NOVA's academic programs and also provide a unique area where individuals and groups can create and collaborate! Projects, courses, and events (field trips, competitions, and private events) will be offered to K-12 students, teachers and community members. Additionally, the lab will be available for use during "open lab" sessions.

The lab features work spaces with 3D printers, a 3D scanner, a laser engraver, a plastic thermoforming center, a large format CNC router, a mini desktop CNC router, a CNC wire bender, computerized sewing machines, a full woodworking shop, as well as ...Read more

Scott Kelly: I Was a Bad Student Who Became an Astronaut. Let’s Stop Telling People They Can’t Be Good at Science.

Since I've returned from spending a year in space, I've been traveling the world sharing my experiences. I've been surprised by one of the things I've heard from audiences: that they believe science is too difficult, too complex for a normal person to comprehend....I'm here to tell you that's not true.
Read more.

FCPS Students Win Parsons Challenge

Fairfax County high school students who won the 2019 Parsons Technology Innovation Challenge.Students from Oakton High and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology were named winners in the final round of the Parsons Technology Innovation Challenge, sponsored by Parsons, a leading technology company. Students were asked to develop a program based on the following challenge: What next-gen idea do you have to make your world a better place? Identify ways technology can be applied to solve problems at home, school, or in your community. Read more.

Women Scientists Recognized in Dallas Art Installation

Picture of 2019 Dallas installation recognizing women in science.Did you know that less than half a dozen statues of real American women exist outdoors in main parks or downtown areas across the nation?⁠ Taking a step to correct this oversight, STEM empowerment nonprofitIf/Then is installing the most statues of women ever assembled in one location at one time. On May 1, NorthPark in Dallas will host a unique exhibit featuring life-size 3D-printed statues of more than 120 female scientists. The display is part of a $25 million program by Lyda Hill Philanthropies to bring more visibility to the work of female scientists and to inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM. Read more

River Otters in Fairfax County

Look closely and you'll see a river otter in this short video clip. The otter was seen below the outfall at the advanced wastewater treatment plant in Lorton. The return of this aquatic mammal is testament to the quality of the treated effluent discharged from the plant, which cleans 40 million gallons of dirty water each day.

New and Improved TechLab @ Sherwood Library

On Saturday, January 25, 2020, the new TechLab at the Sherwood Regional Library had its grand opening. It's a new workshop space with lots of tools and resources for all ages such as sewing machines, microscopes, soldering kits and iPads.The Sherwood Tech Lab is a place for customers to enjoy hands-on learning with a variety of high-tech and low-tech equipment and activities. The TechLab was made possible by the generosity of the Friends of the Sherwood Regional Library.

Miss America is a Scientist!

Camille Schrier conducting an experience for the Miss America pageantMiss Virginia Camille Schrier, a 24-year-old biochemist from Richmond studying to earn a doctor of pharmacy degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, was crowned 2020 Miss America on December 20. She certainly stole the show during the talent portion by putting on a chemistry demonstration.
Science is all around us! I've loved science since I was a little girl, she said, & dressed in a white lab coat. It's my mission to show kids that science is fun, relevant and easy to understand.
She then poured potassium iodide into three separate flasks that contained concentrated hydrogen peroxide, food coloring and dish soap. What we are about to watch is the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, she said. But be careful! Don't try this at home. Foam started pouring out everywhere. The judges were in awe.
Read more.

Science News for Students

Check out these two science websites for students: Science News for Students and Student Science.

Science News for Students is an award-winning online publication that provides age-appropriate science news for students, parents and educators. Stories highlight ongoing research in fields ranging from astronomy to zoology.

Student Science features the STEM activities of students across the country, including student inventions, competitions, etc.

Both publications are produced by the Society for Science, the Public, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education.

Scholarships Out There for STEAM Majors

Justin ShaiferJustin Shaifer's scientific awakening began after his mom forced him to sign a contract promising that he'd figure out how to pay for college. While searching for scholarships, Shaifer discovered deep pools of money around STEM education, Here's the thing about going into a STEM major in college. There is so much money out there for anyone that's trying to get into STEM, as a student, and even after you become a student," he added. Read the article.

Library Homework Resources

Did you know that your local library offers homework resources for students of all ages? Fairfax County Public Library has online resources for homework, SAT and ACT preparation, specialty databases, free wi-fi and computer access and more. Best of all, they have staff who can help you find the best resources for your assignment. More information.

STEAM homework help can be found here

25 College Majors with Lowest Unemployment

Architectural engineeringA list of the top 25 college majors with the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, reveals that science-based college majors dominate in the employment category. Compiled by financial news and commentary website 24/7 Wall St. View the list here.

STEAM and the Art of Guitar Building

GuitarDid you know that building a guitar takes knowledge of math, physics and geometry? Learn more.

How to build a guitar.

Fairfax Futures Offers Parent Resources

Fairfax Futures - Dad and kidsParents and families are a child's first teachers. When guiding and supporting a young child's development, laying a strong foundation in the first five years of life is essential to your child's continued healthy growth and development. In addition to supporting early childhood educators with training opportunities, mentoring and resources, Fairfax Futures publishes online, downloadable booklets and videos to help families nurture a love of learning in their young children. Titles include Helping Your Child Love to Learn, Tapping into Technology and Math in Early Learning: Exploring Balance with The Cat in the Hat. Learn more.

America's Lost Einsteins

How does it work?A recent, ground breaking study that asks the question “Who Becomes an Inventor in America“, paints a troubling picture of how we are failing bright and talented students in poor and underserved communities. The New York Times summarizes the most significant finding of this work:

“Not surprisingly, children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors. But being a math standout wasn’t enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance to become an inventor.

This fact may be the starkest: Low-income students who are among the very best math students — those who score in the top 5 percent of all third graders — are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families.”

Read more.

Workforce Education at Original Mount Vernon High School

The Original Mount Vernon High School is a step closer to once again becoming a learning hub for residents of the Richmond Highway corridor. In mid-March, Fairfax County Public Schools and Northern Virginia Community College signed a letter of intent to offer educational and career certification programs at the historic site.

The objectives are to “expand workforce training and certification programs that lead to employment with a focus on information technology, cyber technology, health and hospitality, and culinary arts; expand training and workforce development for early childhood educators; develop a plan to establish a dual enrollment program to offer college credits to high school students, as well as possibly develop an early college high school ... Read more.

Innovation Lab at Chantilly High School

A new Innovation Lab at Chantilly High School is enabling students to collaborate with and learn from each other as they delve into stations that include take-apart technology, audiovisual studio, VEX robotics, Arduino, 3-D print and scan, and game design.

Principal Scott Poole said the lab came about thanks to parents Sekhar and Malini Puli, who  founded Asha-Jyothi, an organization that serves the underprivileged by providing access to education and healthcare. The Pulis observed the growing popularity of makerspaces in schools and wanted to provide all Chantilly students with the opportunity to explore their own ideas, and Asha-Jyothi raised $106,000 through a private campaign. Read more.

Fairfax County Girls Robotics Team to Compete in World Finals

Winners of 2018 National Championship robotisc competitionFairfax Robotics team members, Neha Bhat and Nithya Chintalapati, placed 1st at the World Robot Olympiad Nationals on September 15. They were pronounced the National Champions in the regular senior category and invited to represent Team USA at the WRO World Finals in November in Thailand. Their team, called Absolute Zero, is the first team from VA/MD/DC metro area to reach the world finals, and Bhat and Chintalapati are the only all-girls team from the USA. Both are students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Read more

Children's Science Center Expands

Childrens Science Center logoThe Children’s Science Center will be merging with the Science Museum of Virginia to create a new regional science center. This expanded regional center will be an extension of and will benefit from shared resources and expertise from the Museum’s four decades of delivering inspiring informal science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences.

Nene Spivy, Executive Director for the Children’s Science Center, said “We look forward to expanding our mission of inspiring a love of learning in STEM; showcasing our region as a science and technology hub; and providing fun, high-quality interactive experiences for families, schools and curious minds of all ages.”

This new STEM-focused resource will serve an estimated 300,000 guests annually and will be located at the Kincora development in Dulles and will be ten times the size of the current Children’s Science Center facility at Fair Oaks Mall.

Sparking a Love of STEAM

Children's illustrated science bookOakton High School 12th grader Leela Ayyar’s excitement about science, technology, engineering, and math is contagious, just as it is with her literary alter ego, Elara. One day, Leela hopes to get her pilot’s license and pursue her dream of becoming an astronaut.
It can be tough to be an aspiring engineer in a predominantly masculine field of study, but her passion has always pushed her forward. Along the way, Leela noticed that other girls didn't feel the same way.

PatriotHacks Video

A hackathon is a social coding event where people of multiple disciplines work collaboratively to solve a challenge. The concept of hackathon, also known as hack fest or codefest or hack day, was born out of the open source community.

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