Let off steam while letting STEAM in - Albuquerque Journal

Let off steam while letting STEAM in

It’s every kid’s dream of laser tag, arcade games, bowling, pizza and – refraction angles?

Welcome to the “Play Academy,” a fusion of the high-energy fun at the Main Event family entertainment center and an accredited STEAM-based educational program.

Main Event Entertainment in Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“This is meant to spark some joy around some of those intimidating topics of learning,” said Cassaundra Bustamante, sales manager at the Main Event in Albuquerque. “It’s about having fun while learning, and it’s also definitely something to encourage relationship-building with teachers and students.”

STEAM – a learning concept that uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics to educate students – is mixed into the activities of the nearly 5,000-square-foot Main Event facility. The Play Academy program is a partnership venture between Main Event, STEM.org, which is a STEM research organization, and Big Thought, an education nonprofit.

Launched locally in August, the Play Academy is designed for educators who want a field trip that allows their students to let loose in a traditional indoor amusement center, while performing valuable math and science techniques, often in ways that are nearly undetectable by students.

“Sometimes, they don’t realize they’re learning until the very end,” said Mandisa Marks, event coordinator at Main Event. She also proudly wears the title of “funcilitator,” she says with a laugh, and added that the enjoyable experience of the Play Academy reinforces classroom lessons.

“Getting this hands-on learning is the best way of doing learning. Students have that experience and are able to tie everything together,” she said. “It’s the easiest way to take a break from learning concepts that are not very interesting on paper or PowerPoint, and bring them here to get some field practice.”

Schools can reserve Maine Event field trips for students in the first grade all the way up to high school seniors, program leaders said. The Play Academy program is divided into the Main Event’s four main attractions – bowling, laser tag, arcade games and pizza – to learn a variety of educational concepts.

The partnership with Main Event “allows us the opportunity to provide standards-based field trips that teachers can trust, while simultaneously showing youth that learning can happen through fun, memorable experiences,” said Robert Jenkins, vice president of Sales and Strategic Initiatives at Main Event Entertainment. “We’re excited to open our doors to students in the community to show them learning happens everywhere.”

Byron Sanders, president & CEO of Big Thought, said the Play Academy program is “what 21st-century education is all about.”

“The Main Event team are visionaries in this space,” he said. “It was such an organic fit for our team to co-design and we are thrilled for youth all over the country to dive in.”

Main Event, a Dallas-based company founded in 1998, has 44 centers in 16 states across the country, and serves more than 20 million people each year.

According to a Main Event press release, booking a Play Academy field trip requires a minimum of 10 participants and depends on time availability. Prices vary and activity options are dependent on class size and curriculum, the release said. Labs can be booked individually or as a bundle. For information, visit mainevent.com.


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