In the Zone.
Story by Chelsea Martin
Photo by Billy Hardiman
Children are often identified as the best hope for
the future, a resource too critical not to develop
and mold into bright, intellectual, minds
through a longstanding relationship with education.
The only obstacle is developing a system that
introduces education to the young minds of children
with an unparalleled excitement that will last a
lifetime. A delicate balancing act exists between
education and fun—a balance that has been defined
and redefined by schools for years.
In order to adapt and respond to the changing
lifestyles, the Kyrene and Tempe school districts have
introduced a program through Kid Zone integrating
science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)
in a fun, unique learning environment devoid of
the typical pressure children feel in a standard
Kid Zone offers children a safe place to be when
they are not in class, either before or after school.
Kid Zone has always worked hard toward
implementing various programs to engage the
children in learning and interacting with one
another. This is the first year that the STEM program
has been officially introduced to the Kyrene and
Tempe school districts.
“Our program started with science in general
for the past couple of years,” said Jeremy King,
community services supervisor for the Kid Zone
enrichment program. “As the STEM movement
started to progress, we realized that science is just
one portion of it—technology, engineering and math
all play into it as well.”
Kyrene de las Manitas is the main location for
STEM, and the program provides mobile kits to 17
different schools, five in the Kyrene district, 12 in the
Along with King, the members of the Manitas Kid
Zone team are Site Coordinator Michelle Arnieri;
Assistant Program Manager Jon Bell; activity leader
Tylre West; and science instructor Alex Frazier.
King, who has worked with Kid Zone for nearly 15
years, dedicated his time and efforts towards writing
the grant for the site.
“I was thinking when I was writing the grant that
it shouldn’t be the only site for the program because
it doesn’t benefit the 3,000 kids that we serve on a
yearly basis,” King said.
“We want all the kids to be able to experience
STEM as well. It was important to me that the
program was not only designed for gifted students
but for everyone.”
The STEM program includes various activities
such as tablets with interactive science applications,
microscopes, a snap circuit to build various devices,
a living laboratory in the classroom with fish (which
the kids named Cherry and Blueberry) and hermit
crabs, indoor plants to study growth, and other
science- and engineering-related activities.
There is also a science instructor who teaches
lessons three days a week along with special science
projects each week to look forward to. All of the ideas
introduced in the classroom are a result of the staff
collaborating to brainstorm ideas for activities.
King and other Kid Zone team members decided
it was time to reinvent their program and the way
they approach teaching science to successfully engage
the students in an enjoyable learning environment.
“We don’t want to be the same science-type
classroom where you memorize things. We want to
emphasize the program as being experimental in
order for the kids to gain a deeper understanding of
the way things work,” King said.
This accelerated program encourages children to
think critically about science and possibly consider
becoming a scientist or engineer in the future.
“I always think about all the things that have
helped to make our country in general great, such
as the Internet and cars, which were all created by
someone to propel us forward,” King said.
“So when I hear that all these scientists and
engineers are overseas it just made me think that
we need a place where our children not only learn
about it but become interested in it and seriously find
excitement in it.”
The program is a big step for Kid Zone, and an
overall huge movement in education, King says. Kid
Zone’s STEM program is highly flexible, working
around parents’ schedules to allow them to bring
their children as many times a week as they need.
The accelerated program allows children of all age
groups and abilities an opportunity to push forward
and experience science in a compelling way, all the
while efficiently being guided by an enthusiastic Kid
Zone instructor. The STEM program was introduced
to Manitas on Aug. 5, and the Kid Zone team has
quickly noticed the positive impact and high level of
interest from the kids.
King says the kids often voice rave reviews, noting
that it is their favorite part of the day.
Two thumbs up indeed.
The STEM program has potential to grow and
expand further, and everyone involved—Kid Zone
instructors, teachers, parents and kids—could not be
more excited about its unwritten, optimistic future.
“Kids have a view of the world that we kind of
forget sometimes and they will bring it right to the
forefront. They end up experiencing
something in a way that we (as adults)
kind of forgot how to experience,” King
“Being able to see the kids
experience something for the first
time is the real joy of it all. It’s truly
Information: Registration for Kid Zone’s
STEM program can be completed at the city
of Tempe Social Services Office (2nd floor
Tempe Public Library). Registration is
open throughout the year, Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-
5 p.m. www.Tempe.gov/KidZone or call Kid
Zone’s main office, 480-350-5400.