Forest Hill Times: Snapology Encourages Learning Through Play

"Snapology encourages learning through play" by Jennifer Khedaroo

Originally published Feb 13, 2019 in Forest Hill Times

Image courtesy of Forest Hill Times

While looking for activity programs for their own children, Natalie and Jean Laraque found that there weren’t many available that offered a balance between playtime and education. So to create that balance, the couple decided to open up Snapology in Forest Hills.

Snapology offers interactive and hands-on learning activities through which kids learn to build anything from roller coasters, helicopters and truck to pirate ships and drones.

“We know the importance of exposing children to opportunities that will help them succeed in college and the modern workforce,” Natalie said. “Research has shown that children who are exposed to STEM at a young age have greater academic success than those who are introduced later in life.”

Prior to opening Snapology, Jean worked in banking for 20 years. Natalie worked in education for over 15 years, starting as a fifth-grade teacher in Brooklyn, followed by time spent at Columbia University leading an early college awareness program that served 90,000 K-12 students annually.

Snapology is for children between the ages of two and 14 and open to all experience levels. Participants can take dozens of courses at different challenge levels without ever repeating a project.

Image courtesy of Forest Hill Times

The company is mobile, which allows them to operate in libraries, play spaces, schools, churches and private residences across Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island.

“We intentionally created an inclusive mobile company so that we can bridge the gap in access to STEM education in communities that need resources most,” Jean said. “It has been an amazing experience to engage in work that is community centered, supports teachers and increases the access all students have to STEM enrichment no matter their zip code or academic needs.”

Currently, Snapology is partnering with The Austin Space at 108-14 72nd Avenue for the Snapology Jr. Engineer and Robotics programs. Classes for both will begin on February 24.

But one of their favorite places to work is libraries.

“We find that the library is a hub for a community, and the good thing about us is that we bring everything to you,” said Jean. “The kids come here and use their imagination. They don’t even realize that while they’re having fun, they’re learning.”

For the kids, it’s all about using Lego bricks and laptops and iPads. In a recent course, children learned to create their own castles.

Image courtesy of Forest Hills Times

“A lot of them included security of some sort and basketball courts, so you could tell they were real New Yorkers,” Jean said. “We’re here to help but the whole thing is really led by the kids.”

Through Snapology, kids also learn social skills and give presentations.

While there’s about ten minutes of instruction and guidance throughout the course, each project is led by the children. They often work in pairs, and at the end of the course parents are invited to see all of the projects in a setting similar to a science fair.

Snapology sends home a newsletter so parents are aware of the specific projects their child works on.

“Parents often have a hard time getting children to share what happened at school on any given day,” Natalie said. “This becomes a conversation starter between parent and child.”

The Laraques hope to create stronger partnerships with local schools.

“Not only is Snapology focused on inspiring the young leaders that will fuel our economy through STEM, we are supporting the leadership development of teachers,” Natalie said. “Snapology provides an opportunity for educators entering the classroom to gain firsthand experience teaching STEM concepts and allows veteran educators to enhance their skills.”

The Laraques are looking to collaborate with local restaurants to provide children’s programming while parents have dinner, as well as senior centers to help grandparents connect with grandchildren.

For adults, Snapology is currently planning Snap and Sip as well as Bricks and Brew events.

Read the original article: Forest Hills Times - Snapology encourages learning through play