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Archive for the ‘Curriculum’ Category

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Equipped with big dreams, generous hearts, and strategic funding, the Worcester Child Development Head Start program has been building a STEAM curriculum to immerse preschool-age children in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. It’s been a dynamic process that shows how important it is to have partnerships, federal investments, and lots of local action.

Inspired by the STEAM work being done by a Head Start program in Lawrence, Mass., staff in Worcester decided to form a STEAM committee and create their own STEAM rooms.

 

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Why teach math to 3-year-old children?

“Early math is surprisingly important,” Doug Clements, an early learning expert at the University of Denver, explains in a PBS NewsHour report.

“What kids know in their preschool or entering kindergarten year about mathematics predicts their later school success. In mathematics, sure, that makes sense, but it even predicts later reading success, as well as early literacy skills do.”

In essence, why wouldn’t you teach math to 3-year-olds given how high the payoff is.

Clements is one of the creators of Building Blocks, a project — funded by the National Science Foundation — that designs math curricula for young children.

“Our basic approach is finding the mathematics in, and developing mathematics from, children’s activity,” the Building Blocks website explains. “We wish to help children extend and mathematize their everyday activities, from building blocks to art to songs to puzzles…”

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“Research shows that kindergarten mostly is a mathematical wasteland right now for kids. In other words, kids knew that stuff before they walked into the kindergarten door. What are they learning? Almost nothing.”

“Early math is surprisingly important. What kids know in their preschool or entering kindergarten year about mathematics predicts their later school success. In mathematics, sure, that makes sense, but it even predicts later reading success, as well as early literacy skills do.

“Early math is cognitively fundamental. It’s not just about number and shapes. There’s reasoning and thinking embedded in what we do in early mathematics that forms a foundation for years to come.”

Doug Clements, early learning expert at the University of Denver, “Counting the benefits of teaching math to 3-year-olds,” PBS NewsHour, September 6, 2016

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“ ‘We believe that preschool is an integral part of the public school system and public school should be universally available because every child can benefit from it,’ said Josh Wallack, Deputy Chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education. ‘Therefore, preschool should be universal.’ ”

“ ‘Trying to do something this quickly presents a lot of challenges,’ Wallack said. But so far, he said, the push for universal preschool here has proven to be ‘a great example of what a municipal government can do when focused on a really ambitious goal.’ ”

“ ‘I feel like children are learning so much more now,’ said [Lauren] Kendall, who was inspired to leave a communications job at Lehman Brothers, the now-defunct investment bank, and become a teacher after Sept. 11, 2001. When she got her first preschool classroom in 2003 though, she said she had to write her own curriculum and figure out what her kids needed.

“Now, Kendall gets support from the district, including a curriculum that helps her plan classroom activities and personal coaching that helps her understand how to best engage young learners.”

“ ‘What’s perplexing to me is: How come we haven’t moved?’ [Marcy Whitebook] said. ‘There were all these excuses you could make 40 years ago about why we were stuck. But now, there’s no excuse.’ ”

“What it will take to create quality preschool for all,” by Lillian Mongeau, The Hechinger Report, via PBS NewsHour, August 16, 2016

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Boston Public Schools preschool teacher Mary Bolt watches Jason DePina Jr., 5, draw a picture of Batman for his book about superheroes in the classroom’s writing section. Photo by Lillian Mongeau/Hechinger Report

Boston Public Schools preschool teacher Mary Bolt watches Jason DePina Jr., 5, draw a picture of Batman for his book about superheroes in the classroom’s writing section. Photo by Lillian Mongeau/Hechinger Report

A new article in the Atlantic (courtesy of the Hechinger Report) — “What Boston’s Preschools Get Right” — looks at how Boston is building high-quality programs — and how some cities are pushing ahead on pre-K even though state and federal governments are lagging behind.

At Dorchester’s Russell Elementary School, a day in a pre-K classroom “could be a primer on what high-quality preschool is supposed to look like,” the article says. “Children had free time to play with friends in a stimulating environment, received literacy instruction that pushed beyond comprehension to critical thinking and communication, and were introduced to complex mathematics concepts in age-appropriate ways. All three practices have been shown to go beyond increasing what children know to actually improving how well they learn in kindergarten and beyond.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Washington, D.C, is the “pre-K capital,” “where nearly all 4-year-olds (and most 3-year-olds!) go to school,” according to the online news site LA School Report.

Why does a California-based publication care about Washington, D.C? Because Los Angeles is about to make its own investment in early education.

What makes D.C. a pre-K capital?

“Spurred by a landmark 2008 law, the District enrolls 85 percent or more of its four-year-olds (depending on who’s counting) and an even more remarkable 60-plus percent of three-year-olds.”

So on a Wednesday morning at “the Lincoln Park campus of AppleTree Early Learning, a network of pre-K charter schools,” young students are “nearing the end of a three-week unit on paleontology and archeology.” (more…)

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An Enormous Rainbow envisioned by children at the Richard Murphy School in Dorchester

An Enormous Rainbow over Boston envisioned by children at the Richard Murphy School in Dorchester

Back in January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent a letter to children in the Boston Public Schools’ kindergarten program.

“As Bostonians you have the right to share your opinions about our city,” Walsh wrote. “I hear you are learning about structures as part of the construction unit. I have a question for you: What suggestions do you have about constructions in our city to make Boston a fairer and more interesting place for children?”

Walsh advised the children to take their time answering and to consult with each other as well as with their teachers and their parents. “Write your ideas,” the mayor said, and “make a model” of them.  (more…)

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