Ideal Lab Kids gives students a fun jump on STEM training

March 7, 2018 GMT

Children are naturally inquisitive learners. Now they have a place to go when they want to learn just a little bit more.

Parents go above and beyond for their children’s safety, growth, education. Manuela Cabral Fly said she likes exposing her son Brock Michael Fly, 7, to extra-curricular activities because he can get an idea on what his professional calling would be and because the activities motivate him to do well in school.

“I believe it can be well rounded and to let the children explore all the different activities that are available to them is key to them finding out what they really love to do, whether it is as a hobby or as a task,” Cabral Fly said.

Idea Lab Kids offers summer, spring break, holidays breaks and school days-off camps. Additionally, on-site or mobile birthday parties are offered.

Ghazal Qureshi, founder of Idea Lab Kids, said the force that drove her to make Idea Lab Kids a reality was when she felt her 7-year-old child, Ayman, was being left behind in the traditional classroom. After Qureshi’s last corporate position, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom.

“I realized there was such a lack in the market for the type of programs that I wanted my kids to be participating in that I started putting it together on volunteer basis and from that it kind of turned into a business,” Qureshi said.

Idea Labs has held more than 120 camps. The ratio of a class is from 10 to 12 students per teacher.

“We believed that science, technology, engineering and mathematics couldn’t be standing alone. They required the arts in some sort of fashion. We just didn’t know how to articulate that,” Querish said. “Later we realized the importance of it. In the market place, or in the scientific world that wasn’t the norm, but we always thought it was so important we couldn’t eliminate that (and) we kept introducing arts into our STEM programs so we feel like, oh wow, we are the pioneers.”

Classes can range from graphic and video design, robotics, 3D printing, engineering, physics in motion, coding, chemistry lab, movie studio, puzzles, logic and engineering to Spanish immersion, cursive and cooking classes. Programs are available for children from 4 to 14 years old.

“We’ve always stayed true to the programs that we think the kids needed, which were engaging, thought-provoking, which asked them questions rather than give them instructions only,” Qureshi said.

Idea Lab has several campuses throughout the Greater Houston area, including Bellaire, central Houston, Energy Corridor, the Medical Center, the Heights, Downtown, Katy, Spring Branch, Sugar Land, the Woodlands, Spring and Humble.

Other locations are in Austin, San Antonio and Howard County, Md. Outside of the U.S., IDEA Lab Kids is in Canada, and will have additional locations in India, China and Russia.

Staff go through a video training, an in-class training, which can go from how to do video-printing slicing, work with drones Qureshi said.

“We hire fresh graduates, [college] juniors and seniors, because they are the ones who are at the cutting edge of all the new educational frontiers,” Qureshi said. “They are the ones working with the newest technology, they are the ones taking classes in the field that they are passionate about and their energy directly translates to making the kids excited about what they are teaching.”

Kristopher Ellis, the director of research and development at Idea Lab Kids and instructor, said they do everything from simple imagination projects that students get to work with to programming robots, among other things.

“There is a lot of science activities out there, but there is not a lot of teaching that goes into those sciences activities, so we are trying to combine both so that we can bring the science to all the science experiments that are out there,” Ellis said.

Ellis said that as an instructor he enjoys finding students who become engaged and passionate about the activities they do and who take the lesson one step beyond.

“We try to bring all the science together, and they will not always get everything, but once you are exposed to something you will remember one piece and the next time you will remember another piece and that is how children learn, just being exposed,” Ellis said.

Students can choose the subject matter that they are interested in, what type of program they want to participate.

Idea Lab Kids also offers on-site or mobile birthday parties, with different themes available to choose from.

“Our parties are different because they are taking the same type of principles that we teach in our classrooms,” Qureshi said. “The trick behind us is that kids do not realize they are learning. They like they are making something cool, something exciting, but we are teaching them a lot of educational concepts and we do the parties the same way.”

Idea Lab has a team of 10 people who work on research, development and curriculum rewrites. Qureshi said they are always enhancing the curriculum.

“We understand that (developing curriculums) costs a lot of money, but we understand that in today’s age these kids are so savvy, we have to step 10 steps ahead of them and our curriculum needs to step 10 steps ahead in order to make sure that we are doing justice to them, otherwise it is very stagnant” Qureshi said.

Brock Michael participates in Idea Lab activities every month.

“We had one instance where one of the teachers there was thinking that something was too old for Brock, but they let him experiment and they were surprised that he figured out to go digging for a remote and that way he would make a particular robot work,” Cabral Fly said. “They give the children the room to experiment and they make it fun so that the children can really flourish in that environment.”

For more information about Idea Lab Kids, visit www.idealabkids.com.