Valencia County residents get free STEM education opportunity

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LOS LUNAS, N.M. — “Did you know that when Pluto is over New Mexico, it’s a planet still. Our legislature declared that,” said Deb Novak,  the education director at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

That’s just one of the space-based facts Valencia County fifth graders will learn at the museum.

As part of a new five-year partnership with Meta, those students will get free field trips to the museum.

“They will be visiting our planetarium and seeing a planetarium show. Then, they’ll also be doing some classroom activities with us some hands-on. They’ll learn about space, learn about astronomy, and about our solar system,” Novak said.

Novak said fifth grade is the perfect age to get kids excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“What we’ve learned is that if you work with kids around the age of 10, what they get excited about then often influences what they choose to do with their personal time influences what they choose to study and can lead as a stem workforce pipeline directly into things like our national labs here in New Mexico,” said Novak.

Los Lunas School District officials said they’re over the moon about the STEM program.

“Really, I was thrilled to hear of the opportunity. It really builds on our emphasis on science in elementary school. It gives kids a way to really experience science in a very tangible way that they can never get in the classroom,” said Interim Superintendent Deborah Elder.

Meta is donating $300,000 for the five-year field trip program. The museum said more than 1,000 students will benefit from these trips. They’ll also get to learn about New Mexicans on the moon and beyond.

A Meta spokesperson said they want to focus on supporting STEM education programs in the communities they expand to.

In addition to the field trips, Meta is offering free museum admission to Valencia County residents for certain time periods.