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Business owners build ‘STEAM’ learning opportunities

Stephany Miller couldn’t be happier with the new business that recently moved in next to her The Painted Lady Studio on Shartom Drive.

It’s Fort STEM, operated by her husband, Jonah.

“We’d talked about this for a long time,” said Jonah Miller, who opened the business at 108 Shartom Dr. in November 2022.

When Stephany Miller’s former neighbor moved out of the space, she said they knew it was time to finally act on the idea.

Jonah and Stephany Miller

Also, Jonah Miller said opening the business was made even more timely after having read the recent Nation’s Report Card findings that showed a drop in test scores, largely due to the pandemic’s interruption in learning.

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Fort STEM offers science enrichment activities for children between the ages of 5 and 12 with a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning. STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math, and the program offers experiences in all areas.

Jonah Miller, an Army veteran, has a degree in engineering and works as an IT professional at Fort Gordon.

At first, he’d divided the lessons into weekly themes based on one of the letters in the acronym, but since all the disciplines flow together, he’s streamlined his plans.

Students work on a science learning activity at Fort STEM. Courtesy photo

Fort STEM’s space is filled with educational games, an indoor garden and a menagerie of critters such as a turtle, tarantula, snake, scorpion and bearded dragon.

When children arrive, they don a white lab coat before participating in activities. They enjoy the activities, but interacting with the animals is often the highlight of their day at Fort STEM, the Millers said.

“Their favorite is the bearded dragon,” Stephany Miller said.

The idea for Fort STEM came out of Stephany Miller’s experience as a homeschool mom. Giving her children a well-rounded science curriculum could be expensive, she said. Over the years, she networked with other parents to pool their resources to provide the best educational experience for them. Also, there are few places in the area that offer hands-on learning opportunities.

Classes resume Jan. 3 for Fort STEM, but Jonah Miller said students can join in at any time.

The Millers add STEAM to the STEM curriculum through Stephany Miller’s The Painted Lady Studios.

The Painted Lady Studio offers art classes to children. Courtesy photo

She started her art classes with seven students in August 2021 in a space at the Riverfront Antique Mall.

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When the mall closed, she had two choices.

“It was either grow or close. I decided I was going to grow,” said Stephany Miller.

She teaches classes in a variety of disciplines from drawing and painting to papier-mâché and collage (her favorite medium is chalk pastels). Another teacher provides classes in watercolor.

While her regularly scheduled classes are for children between the ages of 5 and 18, Stephany Miller offers some events for adults.

Scenes from a glow party at The Painted Lady Studio. Courtesy photo

Her “paint and sip” parties are a hit especially when she throws karaoke in the mix. Paint and sip parties allow people to work on an art project in a relaxed environment. The project can be finished in a couple of hours.

For New Year’s Eve, she offered a couples’ class, which filled up fast. Couples could create two canvases that when put together formed one larger piece. The New Year’s Eve project was a tree. She doesn’t offer couple’s classes often, but when she does, they sell out.

She said she may have another one for Valentine’s Day. A previous couples’ event featured a pair of fish that when brought together are sharing a kiss.

She’s also open for children’s birthday parties and corporate events. Glow parties featuring an activity with black light and glow-in-the-dark paints are also a hit, she said.

Winter classes begin Jan. 4.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Sign up for the free newsletter here.

One thought on “Business owners build ‘STEAM’ learning opportunities

  1. This is very educational for the youth. I live in Washington, GA and would love more information about this program. I have a youth organization, also. Four “E” Youth Organization, Inc. is a nonprofit 501c 3 Community based program to provide an environment of support for participants through Education, Encouragement, Empower and Exposure. We offer life skill building opportunities with addressing gang violence and intergenerational poverty.

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