YMCA program helps kids keep up STEAM during summer break


Children at Peterson Elementary School in Huntington Beach unleashed their inner abstract artist Monday as part of a YMCA of Orange County summer learning program.

The K-6 initiative, dubbed Get in Gear, is part of a countywide effort to incorporate STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — as well as digital literacy and tech lessons during the summer break from school.

More than 3,000 students are expected to participate in Get in Gear, which is being used at dozens of Orange County YCMA facilities, including ones in the Huntington Beach City and Newport-Mesa Unified school districts.

On Monday at Peterson, kids made abstract art with a wooden block and metal wire, bending the wire, stapled on the block, as they saw fit.

They then wrapped their wire creations with a tight-fitting white cover, giving each a statuesque look. The results included a tornado, a heart, a spring and a few that could have passed for variations on the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

Nathan Andreas’ wire sculpture resembled a volcano. The 9-year-old meticulously painted it red, with some gold sparkles indicating a unicorn had died there.

“I just call it ‘Abstract,’” Nathan said.

Krista Poitras, director of the Peterson YMCA program, said the activity and others like it — such as making rockets, paper airplanes and Lego structures — get the kids excited about STEAM topics, which will help them with career opportunities later in life.

“This is opening the gates for the interest to be there,” Poitras said.

“We want to help all children reach their full potential by supporting their unique youth development journeys,” YMCA of Orange County Chief Executive Jeff McBride said in a statement. “We designed our summer learning project to reward kids’ curiosity, inspire creativity and teach them how to succeed. With STEAM-based activities that emphasize art and related sciences, we can teach this generation new skills they’ll need to grow up and thrive in the economies of the future.”

YMCA directors hope to reach 10 million minutes of STEAM activities this summer. As of Monday, they had attained more than 4.69 million.

Some classes are still open for registration. For more information, visit

Twitter: @BradleyZint