*plus some non-mammals

This year we will be participating in March Mammal Madness. This is a yearly bracketed contest to see which animals would win out in a [hypothetical] tournament style combat.

The idea is to give kiddos a chance to research the offensive and defensive traits of a series of animals and to think about the circumstances that might lead one to winning.

The folks behind the organization create realistic scenarios and probabilities for the outcome of those scenarios. From there, they roll the proverbial dice to determine outcomes and winners. Not all matches are to the death either. A well fed predator may choose to forfeit a round rather than risking an injury.

So get your kiddos researching these animals. We’ll be posting fact sheets up around STEAM Lab and encouraging kiddos to make their own brackets. Adults can participate, too! We’ll hand out a free month membership to the winner if we get at least 10 participants.

You can find your 2020 bracket at Mammals Suck … Milk.

We are currently looking for the right people for a few positions.

Tutors: We are in need of a supply of after school tutors as our Beast Academy Math program grows and we add homework help and reading tutoring. This is a great job for a high school student and can be flexible (adults welcome, too). We have immediate need for someone on Wednesdays from 1pm – 2pm. Pay starts at $10/hr.

Spanish Speaking Tutor: We have immediate need for a Spanish speaker to help a few Middle and High School students who are not fluent in English. The students need help with math, English, science, and history. We will have someone on hand to help if the math gets tricky. Tutors would work 3 hrs a week and have a flexible schedule. Pay starts at $20/hr.

Summer Camp Coordinator: We are accepting resumes for a summer camp coordinator. This person would help oversee our Summer Camp so that we could extend it into July and August. They must have experience working with groups of children and work well with neuro-diverse kids. Pay starts at $20/hr.

Summer Camp Teachers: In addition to offering a free-form summer camp, we’d also like to offer some half-day enrichment classes. If you have a class idea that fits into the STEAM fields, come talk to us! Pay starts at $20/hr.

I have a pipe-dream of attaching a free tutoring and homework center to STEAM Lab where kiddos of all ages can come, get help with their homework, projects, or just concepts they’re struggling with. We’d hire high schoolers to offer assistance and have an adult supervisor for tougher questions and behavioral disputes.

After kiddos finished their homework then they’d get to head over to STEAM Lab and drop-in for free or at a discounted rate. We’d make the whole experience as fun as possible and maybe get Fleur de Lys or Ruby K’s to offer some $5 vouchers for kids who come in a certain number of times a month.

In order to make this possible, we’d need to rent additional space, hire tutors, a coordinator, etc. So in reality we need some sort of funding source or sponsor. If you have any ideas for us (keeping in mind that we are still and LLC and not a non-profit) we’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, we’ve created a survey to help identify the scope and extent of the need so that we can make more informed choices. Please go fill it out!

Math is a hard subject to teach in school. It is reasonably easy to differentiate reading and writing, because students pick their own books and write their own journals, but math is so much more rigid. On top of that is the fact that arithmetic and math are often conflated so students that have a hard time with one, give up on the other. Yet, we never assume that because a kid is a bad speller they can’t read or write.

Math is my passion. I love teaching students that they can think creatively *and* logically and solve hard problems. I’ve played with a few ways of trying to address this at STEAM Lab and I think I’ve settled on my favorite.

In February, we’ll start offering Math Tutoring and Enrichment using the Beast Academy curriculum. This curriculum focuses on developing concepts and creative problem solving. At the beginning of each chapter two characters discuss a real world problem in comic book style and develop the math to solve that problem. Students work through problems to cement the concept, but never just rote repetition.

In this program kiddos will be learning things in a very different way than they are in class. It will make things click for some kids who’ve been struggling and it will provide new ways of thinking for kiddos who’ve been having an easy time. All in all, it will make the transition from arithmetic to algebra much, much easier.


This program is aimed at kids in grades 2-7. Have your kiddo take part of the placement tests. When choosing a placement test, choose one lower than you think might be correct, since we’ll want to reinforce the logic behind some of the concepts before introducing new material.

If you tell us where your kiddo is at and when they’re available, then we’ll pair them up with another student of roughly the same level. Problem solving with a buddy is always more fun! If your child already has a buddy, then just let us know!

Cost will be $12 for each workbook (we’ll buy the books) and then a weekly cost of $10. You’ll pay by the month based on how many days are available that month. We’re running the program on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4-5 and Wednesdays from 1-2. Kiddos are welcome to stay and finish out our drop-in hours afterwards.

We will be hiring a student to help facilitate, but there will always be a math-y adult on hand to answer questions as well.

Any questions?

Our new class schedule is up! You can check it out at https://lasteamlab.com/events/ and I’ll list some of the highlights here.

As always, if you have a group that would like their own session of one of these classes, please reach out to us! We are happy to accommodate. And if you have concerns about some special needs that your kiddo might have, please talk to us about how we can help make our classes accessible.

Bullet Journaling for Teens and Tweens
Mixed Media Nature Collage
Children’s Craft Fair
Super Sculpey Dragons
Paper Mache Creatures
Create Your Own Wings
Beginning Wand-making and Introduction to Charms

Programming and Math:
Intro to Robotics
RPG Game Design – RPG Maker
Math Enrichment – Probability and Combinatorics Edition
Intro to Game Design – Godot
Beginning Wand-making and Introduction to Charms

Microbe Myth-Busting
Nutrition News – After School
Forensics: Kidnapped Cookies
Discover DNA – After School
Exploring Erosion – After School

Sew your own Circle Skirt
Doll Making and Fashion Design
Draft your own Bodice Block

Winter Break Camp
No Teacher’s Conference Camp Scheduled yet, but we’ll likely have one

Microbe Myth-Busting
Paper Mache Creatures – Homeschool
Nutrition News – Homeschool
Discover DNA – Homeschool
Exploring Erosion – Homeschool

Mighty Microbes
Preschool Programming Literacy

Every year code.org hosts an Hour of Code. This is an international event intended to give every child access to programming education.

We live in a world surrounded by technology. And we know that whatever field our students choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly depend on understanding how technology works.

At Los Alamos STEAM Lab we believe in this mission and that’s while we’ll be celebrating Hour of Code next week by offering our drop-in hours for free all week and hosting a variety of programming related activities. We’ll have something for everyone, from Pre-K all the way through Adult. Students can program a dance party, solve puzzles in minecraft, use color codes to have ozobot navigate a maze, or take Dash on a road trip.

Our Drop-In hours are:
Monday: 4- 6pm
Tuesday: 9 – 12pm, 4 – 6pm
Wednesday: 1 – 4pm
Thursday: 9 – 12pm, 4 – 6pm
Saturday: 10 – 1pm

You guys. This book. Don’t read it before bed. Don’t keep reading it hoping to get to a part where you’ll stop crying before you go to sleep. Just don’t.

Okay, but seriously, All the Impossible Things by Lindsay Lackey is a piece of speculative fiction about a twelve year old foster kid who has a bit of an affinity with the wind. Red has been through a lot in her life. Her mother is in jail, her grandmother and primary caregiver is dead, and when her emotions get too much for her she has a tendency to cause storms. Her foster families don’t know about her magic, but they do know she’s trouble and she knows she’s unwanted.

The story begins when Red is being taken to a new foster home. I won’t go into too much detail as it will spoil the story, but I will highlight some of the things done well.

  • Her foster dad is black, but that is mostly just mentioned in passing.
  • Her caseworker is a genuinely good person who cares about her.
  • The support family for the foster family are Hawaiian and their culture is very important to them.
  • Red’s mom has a drug problem that doesn’t magically disappear.
  • Lots of things go wrong. There is no magically happy ending, but there is hope.
  • This quote: “Grief isn’t like anger. Anger can burn out. It can be released. But grief is something that becomes a part of you. And you either grow comfortable with it and learn how to live your life in a new way, or you get stuck in it, and it destroys you.”

I will hand this book over to my ten year old to read and she will love it, but it is a hard book. I am not kidding when I say I cried through half of it. It was raw and there was very little break from one moment to the next. Please read this before handing it to your child. It was oh, so good, though. We’ve needed more books like this for a long time, and I’m pleased they are starting to get published.

casual cosplay:

Cosplay or costume play is the art of creating a costume based on or inspired by a character from media. Casual cosplay is a term used to describe a low key or relaxed cosplay, casual cosplay is all about using what you already have, making things you don’t, and finding the rest easily to embody a character you love! Cosplay can seem intimidating if you don’t know how to use a sewing machine or wrap your head around how to make armor from cardboard. In the 4 week class at the STEAM Lab different techniques and approaches to cosplay will be broken down in to accessible resources for kids.

Doggie cosplay:

The STEAM Lab is offering a dog cosplay building class on Saturday the 19th! Have a non-traditional shaped dog? Or a not common dog costume idea? This class is for you! You bring your dog’s measurements (or a dog sweater that fits them) and we can help you create the dog costume of your dreams! Whether it be a large dog or a small dog we can help you make your dog’s cosplay come to life!

Cosplay can be fun, accessible, and inexpensive! Casual cosplay is all about figuring out how to make something that reflects your passions and works for you!

Create your own wings:

The STEAM Lab will also offer a wings making class two Saturday’s in October! These iridescent faerie (or dragon, or bug, or sprite) wings will help take your costume to the next level. These realistic and life size wings are fun, durable, and magical. Parent child duos who want to take the class will be offered a special discount for signing up together! Shoot us a message for more details!

When starting Los Alamos STEAM Lab, we had a real debate about whether we would be a non-profit or LLC. We have a strong desire to serve the community and make our classes accessible to everyone (you can see one part of that desire in our post about diversity). We finally settled on LLC because we weren’t ready to bring a Board into the decision making process. Four women, each with their own strong vision, is plenty to navigate.

HOWEVER, we still very much want to serve the community and that includes folks with diverse incomes. To that end, we’d like to start a STEAM Foundation that will fund scholarships to our classes as well as programming at the libraries and schools of Los Alamos and Northern New Mexico.

In addition to funding activities at our space, we anticipate that the foundation would support other STEAM activities in town, particularly Mathamuseum, another community focused LLC.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in running this foundation (including raising enough money for a decent salary), please get in contact with us. Besides there not being enough hours in a day, we don’t feel it would be ethical to run this ourselves, but we’d be happy to sit on the board. We expect that it would involve about 40 hours a month of grant-writing and schmoozing.

Let’s just start by saying I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Patricia Wrede. Even though her series can be vastly different from each other, they are all just fantastic. I particularly recommend The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, featuring a princess who offers herself to the service of dragon because she just can’t handle being as vapid as her sisters, and the Cecelia and Kate Novels featuring the letters two regency era cousins send back and forth to each other as they piece together a dastardly plot and try to stop it.

Anywho, this book review is actually about Frontier Magic, a series set in an alternate history just after the secession war in Northern Columbia. The world is filled with dangerous creatures, both magical and non-magical and only the mysterious magic of the great barrier keeps the pioneers safe. Many who cross it to explore or create settlements never come back.

In The Thirteenth Child, we meet Eff. In a world where Seventh Sons are powerful and the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is nearly legendary, it is really pretty awful to be a twin to a double seventh, especially if you are the older twin and a seventh daughter, for that makes you an unlucky Thirteenth Child. This is the story of Eff, a child so unlucky that her parents had to move the whole family from their safe existence to the frontier when she was only five. In this story, we learn that maybe superstition is only what you believe it to be and if you just look at something differently then maybe the unlucky can become lucky. Eff grows in confidence, and does amazing things even proving that she has abilities her brother can only dream of, but she still does not shake off her feelings of inferiority.

I won’t review Across the Great Barrier and The Far West in great detail, as the continue the life of Eff as she grows into herself and becomes a young woman. I will say that what I love about this series is its slow pace. Very little happens in the way of great excitement, or rather exciting things happen, but they are rarely the focal point of the story. Instead, we get to see a brow-beaten five year old turn into a lovely, strong young woman because one person has faith in her at a time and she works hard to prove the faith warranted. There is no defining moment or major climax where she suddenly realizes that she is worthwhile. Instead, she is constantly surprised when people give her their faith. She is the ultimate example of imposter syndrome and in the end she has faith in herself and that is lovely.

Because the book is much more about the character and much less about the action, it is probably more suited for a mature and introspective reader. I would totally hand it to my current 10yo, but my 8yo probably won’t be ready for it for another five years. The Amazon reviews agree with me, ranging from love of the book to complaints about it being ‘boring.’

Mature Content/Spoiler Alert: The books are pretty pristine and true to their era except for reference to a bit of math that explains an elopement and an unchecked ego that ends in an accidental death and a lot of guilt.