Adams Youth center uses federal STEM Grant to fund unique programs


ADAMS -- A handful of new and unique programs -- including "geocaching" and "architectural LEGOS" -- are shaking things up at the Youth Center Inc. in Adams.

The Youth Center is expanding its offerings this week thanks to a federal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Grant won by the Berkshire County 4H on its behalf, allowing the organization to expand its staff and classes for local kids.

Participants will have the option of signing up for Photography, Silly Science, Sewing Creations, Fit Math, Architectural LEGOS or Geocaching. Each class lasts 10 weeks, after which students will have the option to sign up for another. Groups are capped at 10 kids, and the Youth Center expects to have about 60 participating in total.

Geocaching, perhaps the most unrecognizable of the new classes, is a hobby of the 21st century that is steadily growing in popularity. Participants aim to find hidden "caches" using GPS coordinated and other clues.

"You try to find these caches -- it's usually a small waterproof container with maybe a logbook or something you can sign," said Amber Lafogg, the Youth Center's enrichment coordinator. If the cache is a trinket or some other unique gift, Lafogg said, it's finder's keepers -- but the discoverer leaves another gift for the next person to find the cache.

"The kids will learn to use navigation systems," among other skills, Lafogg said.

The architectural LEGOS class will also be a challenge for even older students.

Building with Legos

"They're building city structures with LEGOS," Lafogg said. "It's not your basic LEGO structure, they're building moving parts."

The sewing group aims to be community-oriented, and in its first session, craft hand-made bears for sick children at North Adams Regional Hospital. In future sessions, Lafogg said, the class probably won't sew bears, but will still make something with the local community in mind.

More staff added

The grant covers the cost of more than an additional 20 hours of staffing every week, which will be spread out between current and new employees. All of the class materials are also covered by the grant, according to Sonia DiSanti, the Youth Center's executive director who took over the reins in 2011.

The program is funded for at least one year, and then the Youth Center would have to reapply.

In addition to the classes offered through the STEM grant, the Youth Center will also soon add other programs, such as indoor tennis.

"We've been growing over the last couple of years," she said.


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