By: Charli Stanley

FORT POLK, LA.–Moving to a new area shouldn’t mean you have to deprive your child of learning about the fundamentals of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). That’s why Fort Polk pushed to become one of the many DoD STARBASE program locations. STARBASE Polk is scheduled to launch in August of 2022, debuting with a fifth grade program designed to provide curriculum, materials, and equipment otherwise not offered in the average school. It will become one of many locations under the STARBASE Louisiana sector of DoD STARBASE.

Science, technology, engineering and math have always provided a foundation for innovation. The importance of STEM enrichment can be seen all around you, from the machine you use to brew your coffee every morning, to the jets you see flying high in the sky. 

Students show off the results of their latest group experiment.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Ilgenfritz

STARBASE is a Department of Defense youth program designed to serve students without access to STEM learning opportunities. There are many locations stationed at National Guard, Marine, Air Force, and Army bases throughout the U.S. Their goal is to educate by using “hands-on, minds-on” activities designed to pique interest in fields such as engineering and robotics. Students are encouraged to perform in a team-centered environment and work together to learn how to solve real-world scenarios, such as extinguishing a chemical fire or launching a rocket.

The curriculum covers many topics such as physics and chemistry, energy, technology, engineering, and mathematics applications. The program, taught by accredited military personnel, offers 25 hours of rigorous learning that promote enthusiasm in students. 

“The collaborative project-based, hands-on investigations foster curiosity and ignite a passion for learning that spills over into the regular classroom. We strive to provide a place where all students can feel welcome, valued, and capable of doing great things,” said Laurie Ilgenfritz, executive director of STARBASE Louisiana. Many testimonials state that the students were surprised to find they had a fun experience while learning important principles, and teachers loved the hands-on learning opportunities their schools were not equipped to offer.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on February 1, 2022, announcing the Child Development Center as the new home to STARBASE Polk. 

Once established, the program is expected to expand from fifth grade to also being offered to sixth through eighth grade in an after-school program. During the off season, summer camp is to be offered for kindergarten through fourth grade students as well. 

Fort Polk continues to push for progress in education, ensuring your children are provided with the tools they need to build a successful future. With improvements such as this, your children’s time at Fort Polk is promised to be a fun and educational experience. To learn more about what STARBASE has to offer, you can visit their website.