The winter sessions at the P.L.A.C.E. started off with a trip to the Oklahoma Historical Museum. We had around 30 youth attend. The visit was the collaboration between the mentorship program and The P.L.A.C.E., and our students and staff enjoyed learning more about Oklahoma and world history.

On December 8, the youth were honored to Skype with Astronaut Terry Hart from NASA, who gave us a brief history of the space program and his own mission. The Skype session was part of our effort to show the participants of FireLodge Youth Program the futures that are available to them in jobs focusing on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors. We can tell the youth about those fields, but speaking with a real, live astronaut really helps drive that point home.

Keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, the youth also went caroling to the elder center located at the CPN Wellness Center. Part of their visit also fulfilled the community service requirements for the month when they helped the elders decorate Christmas trees. Not part of the requirements, but one of the more popular aspects of the visits came when youth played board and card games with the elders.

Speaking of games, our P.L.A.C.E. staff and youth went back to the future for some of our December activities. Instead of video games, staff and youth faced off in competitive games of Navajo Kickball. A few of our younger members even  learned how to play four square.

The topping on the cake for the month was the arrival of the SeaPerch Robot kits though.

Securing these robots stemmed from a collaboration between Tesia Zientek of our Self-Governance Office, Margaret Zientek of the Employment and Training Program and Daniel Frank, an engineering PhD student at the University of Florida.

The schools involved in assisting our youth complete the seabots construction are Dale, Grove, Bethel Acres and Shawnee public schools. Our higher-education partners in the project are Gordon Cooper Technology Center, Oklahoma Baptist University and St Gregory’s University.

Like the conversation with Astronaut Hart from NASA, the seabot project will show our youth a practical and real example of the importance of STEM education and jobs.