Building Preschool Teachers’ Confidence in STEM with Imagine Children’s Museum

Imagine Children’s Museum goal is for teachers to increase their confidence in teaching STEM. Using activities designed to actively fuel learning, teachers have embraced unit themes covered thus far (rain, plants, birds, air and magnets) and eagerly await future topics.

Activities have ranged from creating a balloon race track to learn about air movement, to painting with magnets to understand magnetic attraction. Vocabulary is an important part of each lesson and classrooms have a Focus on Science board, which highlights unit vocabulary and experiments. During dropoff and pickup periods, parents are encouraged to view this area. Museum educators and teachers are delighted to see children comprehend and use vocabulary words.

Imagine has hosted three Family Engagement Nights (two at the Museum and one at the childcare center in Lynnwood) to combat the barrier of the northbound evening commute. Museum educators were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet families of the students they teach each week. Parents shared stories of their children’s enjoyment of the program. One mother commented that though her job has relocated her to another city, she continues to keep her daughter enrolled at her childcare center because “science just isn’t available in other preschools.”

At Learn & Grow located in Monroe, one little boy has been sharing a new vocabulary word each week; this activity perfectly aligns to the lesson, but it is not actually part of the curriculum. In conversation with this boy’s mother during a Family Engagement Night, a museum educator mentioned the boy’s vast vocabulary knowledge. His mother proudly laughed and shared that she has “no idea where he gets it from.”

When later speaking with the child’s teacher, the museum educator learned that it was from weekday discussions. The preschool teacher herself has been learning more about each topic covered in the ECHOS curriculum and continues to engage with the children outside of the weekly Little Science Lab program.

These evenings allow museum educators, teachers, children and families to interact with one another and continue to expand in their learning while seeing the museum as an important family resource. The program’s objective to empower teachers has had a noticeable effect on the children in their classroom and their families.

One of the things we have been delighted to see is the expansion in children’s vocabulary. Read this great article for more on why vocabulary development in the early years is so vital.

Launching in fall 2014, the Imagine Children’s Museum brought its Little Science Lab program to three childcare centers in the Lynnwood and Monroe area with support from a Thrive Washington grant. The purpose of Imagine’s program is to provide teachers at under-resourced childcare centers with the training and resources they need to teach STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math). The program utilizes the ECHOS (Early Childhood Hands On Science) curriculum developed and tested with funding from the Department of Education and readies children for kindergarten while exciting them about STEM with fun, hands-on activities.