PRESCHOOL STUDENTS GET EARLY EXPOSURE TO TECHNICAL CURRICULUM
At Our Lady of Peace Catholic School in Minneapolis, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly known as STEM, is vital to its Early Learning Program (ELP) curriculum.
Established in 2009, the ELP started small and evolved to include STEM. The early introduction to STEM was already well-received by parents and students, and then the prekindergarten through eighth grade school went a step further under the leadership of its director, Dolly Hinze-Kinney.
“We developed a curriculum that also includes art, because art is an integral part of a child’s world, so now we offer STEAM,” explained Dolly Hinze-Kinney, director of the Early Learning Program.
The response to the school’s enhanced STEM program has also been positive.
Kelli Abar’s daughter, Aria, started the ELP two years ago.
“I am thrilled with the STEAM program,” Abar said. “I could never imagine that our daughter Aria would be learning so much about technology, math, science and art all wrapped into amazing learning experiences.”
Fran Stolz, the school’s ELP STEM consultant, said the STEM/STEAM curriculum was added in 2014 so that the foundation for a lifelong love of learning could be started for its youngest learners.
“They are learning skills needed to become successful leaders of the 21st century,” Stolz said. “Our students have the foundation to solve more complex problems using more complex mathematics and engineering principals because of their participation in the STEAM curriculum.”
The students’ excitement for the program is evident. Pre-K student Ben Marrese described science as “cool.”
“Sometimes the experiments work, and sometimes not, but that’s science,” he said. Classmate Joe Kopp added, “Well, mixing stuff together is really interesting.” And classmate Bridget Hughes said, “Mostly, we get to learn and then teach each other.”
The ELP also offers specialist classes that include music, Spanish, phy-ed, library and computer.
“Given that this age group learns best through play, using music and playing with it physically, vocally, aurally and kinesthetically is a natural fit,” said Cathy Haugland, OLP early childhood music therapist.
“I love putting on my white coat and experimenting with my friends,” Aria said.