Early-Childhood STEM Programs Take Root at White House Event

By Christina A. Samuels — April 21, 2016 2 min read
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The White House announced on Thursday the rollout of several public and private initiatives to support teaching young children about science, technology, engineering, and math, known as the STEM subjects.

The initiatives include research support, school-based programs, expansion of existing programs, and creation of new ones such as STEM-based apps and summer camps. Among the programs and initiatives that were announced or highlighted at the early-education STEM symposium:

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Science announced new grants to explore how early elementary science teaching can improve academic outcomes for children, particularly those from low-income communities and among groups underrepresented in science backgrounds.
  • The federal government is rolling out a set of tip sheets for families and child-care providers called Let’s Talk, Read, and Sing about STEM!
  • The Heising-Simons Foundation will establish a partnership with The Fred Rogers Company to support the production of 25 episodes of Odd Squad, a math-focused television show on PBS Kids, and create accompanying games and apps. They will also hold free summer math camps in 14 U.S. cities serving more than 400 children.
  • The National Head Start Association and Lakeshore Learning will expand access to “Recycle Your Way to STEAM,” a set of activities that use recycled materials to introduce science, technology, engineering, arts, and math to young children. The program would eventually be available at all Head Start centers.
  • The Jim Henson Company, supported by $3 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, will launch a new PBS series, “Splash and Bubbles,” with a marine biology curriculum for children ages 4 to 7.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care will deploy “STEM Ambassadors” to coach and support over 700 early educators and child-care providers to meet higher STEM standards.
  • Murfreesboro City Schools in Tennessee established a STEM foundation to support community partnerships, professional development and expanded STEM access for students.

Roberto J. Rodriguez, a key White House education advisor, said on a press call announcing the symposium that regaining the country’s standing in math and science requires this early focus on STEM concepts.

“Our children are born curious,” Rodriguez said. “They are active learners. It’s really up to us to set a strong foundation for our children, to expose them early to STEM learning across the settings in which they spend time.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.