What's the difference between lava and magma? If you don't know, ask the preschoolers at one of the six Child Development Associates preschool facilities across the county.
Susan Holley, site director at Child Development Associates, has created special learning activities for preschoolers to inspire peer-to-peer collaboration, knowledge and imagination around the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). There they learn that magma is the molten material beneath the Earth's crust, and it becomes lava when it reaches the surface.
This STEM platform, while being sensitive to a child's age, is remarkably sophisticated in terms of language development and knowledge learned.
Some parents were shocked by how much their young children understand, from learning about how the solar system works to understanding the word "sustainable."
"Children are ready for this type of information, and there is really nothing they can't understand if the activities and information is shared with them appropriately," Holley said.
Beyond adult-child conversations, children learn to express their ideas with peers using constructive language. The various STEM activities provide children the choice to work individually or in small groups to manipulate various materials, experiment with cause-and-effect relationships, and discover the process of turning an idea into reality.
Qualified teachers are vital in ensuring that these learning experiences can be maximized.
With help from First 5 San Diego's Quality Preschool Initiative, Child Development Associates was able to send all of their 18 lead teachers and six site directors to a special early childhood STEM conference hosted by Cal State Poly in March.
Holley said she is thankful for the opportunity, which gave the teachers knowledge they could quickly fold into daily activities. It also allowed for the coordination of activities that parents can do with their children. Parents are just as engages in the activities as their children, Holley said.
STEM is a popular topic among educators, business and government sectors resulting from a slow and steady decline of a technically qualified workforce coming out of the US. The San Diego County Office of Education, in addition to the managing the First 5 San Diego County Quality Preschool Initiative, provides leadership in STEM topics to San Diego school districts from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The Quality Preschool Initiative is a partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and First 5 San Diego that works to ensure there are high-quality early education programs in high-need areas.
The initiative serves more than 13,000 students in more than 200 locations across the county.
Through the effort, SDCOE employees work with early education teachers and administrators to help insure high-quality education that helps build important school-readiness and social skills. By focusing on regions with lower incomes and test scores, the goal is to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap by enhancing existing programs.