The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science has been at the forefront of the preschool movement to change when and how science education is introduced.
“For decades we have been missing a great opportunity—our youngest and most natural scientists were largely being ignored by the science education establishment,” said Judy Brown, VP emerita of Education at Frost Science. “With a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and the collaboration of the Miami-Dade County Head Start program, we developed the Early Childhood Hands On Science (ECHOS) program to address the opportunity presented by our youngest learners.”
With funding from the State of Florida, we are now taking the next step – helping to prepare future teachers to feel comfortable introducing science. To do that, we’ve recently partnered with Florida International University to create a pilot program that will provide real-world classroom experience in science learning for perspective teachers. FIU students will receive training in our Early Childhood Hands-On Science (ECHOS) program, a curriculum that has expanded, with support from the Kellogg Foundation, to include family engagement, encouraging parents to work hand-in-hand with their children’s teachers to create substantial early learning opportunities.
In December, the first group of college students who completed the ECHOS training will be paired with teachers in various outlets, including preschool centers operated by Head Start, several Early Learning Coalition providers, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Thena C. Crowder Early Childhood Diagnostic and Special Education Center. They will commit at least 36 hours toward helping low-income children, age three to five, learn about science through hands-on activities that develop crucial critical thinking skills. The centers are located across South Florida, including Opa Locka, Overtown, Liberty City, Little Haiti, Wynwood and Homestead.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to reduce the gap in school readiness,” said Daniela Foerch, an early childhood education instructor at the College of Education. “Head Start students will have access to Frost Science resources to gain a better understanding of science helping them learn through inquiry while applying the scientific method. Because we are teaching science through exploration, we expect to have a longterm impact on educational equity.”
In addition, college students in the FIUteach program, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher preparation initiative, will receive training in science communication and complete internships at Frost Science, working with exhibit content developers and education experts in creating field trip programming for elementary and secondary education students. This enhanced work is being designed in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
FIU is one of South Florida’s anchor institutions and recognized as a Carnegie engaged university. With more than 55,000 students, it is one of the largest minority-serving universities in the United States and awards more STEM degrees to Hispanic students than any other university in the nation.