By Michelle Carrera-Foster & Cheyenne Smith, Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center Teachers
It has been an exciting learning experience this past year in the Sari Isdaner Early Childhood Center! We have enhanced our curriculum by infusing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) through our partnership with Cherry Hill’s Destination Imagination (DI). This new programming challenged the children in our pre-school, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs to use their imaginations, think creatively and to find new ways to solve a problem. For the teachers and staff, the STEAM curriculum has also improved our teaching skills, created lesson plans and implemented new, fresh ideas in our classrooms. It was awe-inspiring to see the response of our children throughout the year. Their level of imagination and excitement grew as the projects developed; they met each challenge head-on and we were collectively so impressed with their achievements.
Among those that benefited from this new curriculum were our three year-olds. We had to figure out how to adapt the program for these young minds, and it challenged us to think outside the box. STEAM put these little minds to the test, and as the year progressed, it engaged them in ways that created excitement and enjoyment. They grew to love the learning created and the new way to solve problems!
One of the STEAM/Pathways lessons was to have the children learn and talk about a sunflower through movement: what it looks like, how it grows, what it needs to grow i.e. water. After the learning and discussion, the children each “became” their own sunflower and talked about how it felt to be a flower and to bloom. When it was one boy’s turn (3 years old) he said, “I am not ready to bloom yet.” The teacher asked him what he needed. He said, “A bit more time, a bit more sun, and a little more water”. The other children responded by giving him time, sun and water, and then in turn he “bloomed!” What an amazing learning moment for all!
This past March, Early Childhood participated in its first ever STEAM Competition at the NJ State level with DI. Even with directions, training and input from the teachers, the children didn’t quite know what to expect. The adults (teachers and parents alike) didn’t know how to prepare the kids for the challenges of the competition. It was stressful, nerve-wrecking, exciting and fun all at the same time. All were happy to have made it to the competition, and to be among so many wonderful and amazing children participating from all over the state, and in such an atmosphere of creativity and imagination! The children worked incredibly hard and did well. The best part was when the audience and judges erupted in applause. It was such wonderful, positive feedback for our young participants and they were so proud of themselves!
We are looking forward to the new school year, to challenging young minds to think imaginatively, to work independently and to create as a team. We expect to have two Early Childhood teams and one school age team at next year’s STEAM/DI NJ State challenge as we move to becoming the South Jersey STEAM/DI Lab. Next year’s NJ Destination Imagination Challenge – look out! Our Early Childhood team will meet all challengers.
Do you want to learn more about our STEAM programming? Contact any one of our directors to set up a personal tour!