In an effort to engage youth who may not have been interested in traditional STEM programs such as robotics, University of Nevada, Reno Extension Program Officer Willie Daugherty developed a pilot program that focused on developing skincare products using STEAM principles while also teaching workforce development and career readiness. The pilot program was launched three years ago, and according to Daugherty, it has been very popular, especially among girls ages 10-15.
“Knowing adolescents are often interested in things like make-up and body products, I looked for a way to capitalize on that,” Daugherty said. “So, after some research, I found a curriculum from a 4-H club in Iowa that taught youth how to make their own lip gloss.”
From there, Daugherty developed a curriculum that expanded the types of products they would develop and that tied to different scientific principles, such as properties of matter and chemical reactions. She also saw this as an opportunity for participants to gain valuable skills for their future.
Not only do the participants make products such as sugar scrubs, lip balms, body butters and spritzes while learning about scientific principles, but they also flex their artistic, technology and creative skills by designing labels and developing a marketing campaign to promote their products. Additionally, during the class, students work in pairs to provide an opportunity to learn communication and cooperation skills.
In addition to tapping into an existing interest, Daugherty focused on finding recipes that were all natural and typically found at home so that cost and availability were not barriers for anyone who is interested in participating.
“We use ingredients like coconut oil, citric acid, extracts and food coloring to make sure the course is accessible for those who are under-resourced,” Daugherty said.
While students are engaged in learning how to use science to make these products, Daugherty said they also use the time to inspire by teaching students about the spirit of entrepreneurship. For example, during the workshop offered in February, the class celebrated business ownership of women of color, also tying the class to Black History Month.
The program is offered year-round at various recreation and community centers in Clark County by Extension Community Based Instructors Iviana-Kia Ridgeway and Brooke Killian. Since its inception, the program has had nearly 500 participants.