At Sawyer we have the privilege of working with hundreds of inspiring educators around the country. Whether they teach virtual classes or in-person activities, the curricula always foster enriching atmospheres for children of all ages to discover their love of learning. We got the opportunity to chat with Niesha Butler, the founder of STEAM CHAMPS, which offers STEAM activities, camps, and classes to children in Brooklyn, NY.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! I’d love to hear a bit more about you and why you started your business.
I am a software engineer and former WNBA basketball player. I wanted to create a space where kids could learn about STEAM in a fun and competitive environment. I was intentional about the name of my company, I take pride in supporting the next generations of STEAM Champions. Many factors contribute to the fact that less than 4% of all college majors are in computer science. I would like to get more kids into STEM. Most kids love to play sports, and I wanted to contribute to the idea that learning STEM would be as fun and accessible as playing a sport.
Can you describe an inspiring moment you’ve had as an educator?
I love seeing kids grow in their knowledge and curiosity. I am not a trained educator. I was a pretty rambunctious kid and I know what worked for me and kept me interested in hard subjects. It's a tall challenge to make coding STEM fun because it's something that kids will need to work at and focus on but we do our best.
What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching children?
We service kids from diverse backgrounds and each of them brings something special to the center. I love seeing how they solve problems. I had some amazing kids come through our doors and they make me optimistic about the future! I really love helping a kid realize their potential. It's important to us that we support them and give them confidence.
What’s one time a child surprised you and made your day?
A kid ran half a block just to say hello. It was the sweetest thing. I didn't know they could run that fast. It made my day that they exerted so much energy to say hi to their favorite teacher :)
On a similar note, what’s the funniest thing a child has done in your class?
These kiddies crack me up on a daily basis. During camp, we had a water balloon/gun fight during our drone camp and the smallest girl came to camp with the BIGGEST water gun I've ever seen. She dominated.
Why is after school/extracurricular enrichment and camp so important for children?
Many kids simply don't have this focused attention in STEAM at their schools, so it's a good way to get and keep kids interested in STEAM activities. We run our center like a gym, so we try and support the whole person by creating a team environment.
How do you think children can discover their passions when they’re not in school or your programs?
I believe repetition and focus are the keys to anything you want to perfect or become great at. We not only expose kids to coding and robotics, but we also have drones, esports, art, chess, and AI. The idea, especially since our focus is on kids ages 6 - 13, is to expose, challenge, and support them as they try new things and figure things out.