White House Highlights Museum of Science's Early STEM Education Curriculum

EiE project will create research-based PreK-K engineering curriculum

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Chris San Antonio-Tunis
EiE's curriculum development team is already at work on the new curriculum.
Thursday, April 21, 2016

BOSTON -- The Museum of Science, Boston's new engineering curriculum for preschool and kindergarten (PreK-K) was highlighted today at the first-ever White House Symposium on Early STEM Learning.

Building on President Obama's early learning and "Educate to Innovate" agendas and working with the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and Invest in US coalition, the White House announced its commitment to advance early STEM learning to support the nation's youngest learners and their caregivers and educators. The Museum's PreK-K curriculum, currently in development, is one of the commitments from philanthropy, industry, advocacy organizations, nonprofits, and government cited by the White House as addressing key areas in early STEM education.

Before the White House symposium, U.S. Secretary of Education John King addressed the importance of investing in early STEM learning. "With high-quality early STEM learning, children do better later in life," said King. "I am hugely excited about all the commitments represented here today." Symposium goals included exploring what works in early STEM learning and creating a community of practice. Said King, "The conversation is about giving all students regardless of their zip code, race, and language they speak, the fuel in the earlier years. Inspiring passion, interest, and  engagement … to solve  the challenges of our country."

The Museum is investing $425,000 in the three-year initiative to create a research-based PreK-K engineering curriculum for ages 3 to 5, building on the success of its Engineering is Elementary® (EiE®) curriculum for grades 1-5, which has reached an estimated 10 million students. The new curriculum will comprise six to eight classroom-tested lesson plans designed to integrate with the "interest centers" found in most preschool classrooms (e.g., building blocks or sand-and-water tables). To increase access for underserved populations, the lesson plans, due out in late 2017, will require inexpensive materials and will be available online at no charge.

"The Museum of Science is both honored and thrilled that the White House has included our PreK-K engineering curriculum in its early STEM learning initiative," said Ioannis Miaoulis, president and director, Museum of Science, Boston. "We have championed STEM for years because we believe the best way to prepare young children for success in life is to engage them early in the engineering design process, enabling them to use their math and science skills to solve problems." Miaoulis founded the Museum's National Center for Technological Literacy® in 2004 to introduce engineering in classrooms and museums nationwide.

Critical Need for Early STEM Learning

In 2013 President Obama charged Congress with making high-quality preschools--schools with well-trained teachers, small class sizes, and a rigorous curriculum -- available for every child in the country.  About 12 million of the nation’s more than 16 million three-to-six year olds are enrolled in some kind of early education program, according to the 2013 US Census, but high-quality STEM curricula for these programs are rare, even though the National Science Teachers Association strongly advocates for preschool instruction in science and engineering.

PreK-K Educators Wanted
The EiE curriculum development team is already combing the literature and observing children to understand the educational approaches most effective in early STEM learning. With this in mind, the new PreK-K curriculum is being developed in close consultation with preschool and kindergarten teachers. "We firmly believe one reason for the success of the EiE curriculum was our iterative approach to design. We asked for methodical feedback from elementary teachers, who truly know the challenges, constraints, and opportunities in real classrooms," said Museum vice president and EiE director Christine Cunningham.

As the EiE team pilots new activities in the coming months, they seek early childhood experts willing to review materials and provide feedback, as well as sites for field-testing. If these opportunities interest you, please visit http://www.eie.org/earlychildhood.

STEM for Schools with Limited Budgets
The new PreK-K curriculum will be available to educators at no cost online, following the model established with the successful EiE afterschool curricula Engineering Adventures® (for grades 3 - 5) and Engineering Everywhere™ (for grades 6 - 8). "Many early childhood programs face budgetary constraints," Cunningham says. "We're committed to using our resources to offer the widest support possible for engineering education." For updates on the PreK-K initiative, subscribe to EiE News at info.eie.org/newsletter.

After the April 21 White House event, video will be available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/whitehouse.

Other Museum of Science commitments to the nation's youngest students include:

  • The Discovery Center which has supported more than 4 million children, birth to age 8, in exploring hands-on activities that foster STEM learning through play. Nearly 70,000 visitors have participated in the Center’s Living Laboratory program, which engages children in research studies while educating caregivers about the 'science of kids.' With National Science Foundation support, the Museum leads the National Living Laboratory project, spreading this model of research and education to more than 40 science centers, children's museums, and libraries in North America;
  • Make with Me, a preschool engineering program which has introduced more than 7,000 children ages 3-6 years and their caregivers to the engineering design cycle in the Museum since June 2015. Research from this pilot will be incorporated into a major family learning exhibition on engineering and computer science.

About the Museum of Science, Boston

One of the world's largest science centers and New England's most attended cultural institution, the Museum of Science introduces nearly 1.4 million visitors a year to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) via dynamic programs and hundreds of interactive exhibits. Founded in 1830, the Museum was first to embrace all the sciences under one roof. Highlights include the Hall of Human Life, Thomson Theater of Electricity, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Mugar Omni Theater, Gordon Current Science & Technology Center, 4-D Theater, and Butterfly Garden.The Science Behind Pixar, created in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios, has begun a 10-year national tour. The Museum is the nation's first science center with a comprehensive strategy and infrastructure to foster technological literacy in museums and schools nationwide. In 2015, its National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®) received the National Science Board's Public Service Award. NCTL curricula have reached 10.4 million students and 118,400 teachers. Reaching over 20,000 teens a year worldwide via The Clubhouse Network, the Museum has also led a 10-year, $41 million National Science Foundation-funded Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network of science museums. Visit: http://www.mos.org.

 

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