Game Changer Village Academy Head Start Students Receive STEAM Lab Thanks To Partnership With PNC Bank

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Staff report

Before many of the early education students at Village Academy can understand what an architect or software developer actually does, they will be learning hands-on what the basics entail.

The opportunity to explore a physics playground or the marine sciences is thanks to a recent grant from PNC Bank to add a STEAM Lab.

Kids were welcomed to the $60,000 lab in one of the portables on campus by Sesame Street star Cookie Monster last month.

After hugs, high fives and a few photos with the blue, furry character, they got to work— or play— on a water table, with building blocks and at an electrical engineering corner.

The opening of the lab was part of a culmination of a two-year grant funded by the PNC Foundation’s Grow Up Great Initiative to enhance preschool education.

The $60,000 lab, created out of a partnership with PNC, Palm Beach State College’s Institute of Excellence in Early Care and Education, the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, the Young At Art Museum and the school districts of Broward and Palm Beach County to bring STEAM to preschools, will serve as a children’s museum within the school.

“I am a very proud principal,” Village Academy Principal LaToya Dixon said. “We are preparing our students to go out and experience education. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

PNC began its Grow Up Great initiative in 2004. It is a $350 million commitment to early education.

In addition to the lab’s debut, PNC named teacher Carmen Vazquez its “Teacher Hero.” She was recognized with additional funding that she can use in her classroom.

She has worked at Village Academy for six years and as a teacher for 11 years.

“I am so honored,” she said. “It’s important for them to have this moment and explore and have these opportunities. Their faces just light up.”

She teaches 3-year-olds and has been involved in the PNC initiative for the past two years. The program included paid Saturday trainings for teachers, STEAM fair days where Palm Beach State College brought activities and experiments to the students and take home family fun packs for use at home.

“It’s been a huge project for the kids,” she said. “It covers everything we are doing in the classroom.”