Science from the Start Kicks Off at the Sciencenter

Amy Gaulke HeadshotBy Amy Gaulke
Public and Media Relations Manager; Sciencenter

The mission of the Sciencenter is to inspire excitement for science through interactive exhibits and programs that engage, educate, and empower. With the onset of the Science from the Start program, an IMLS-funded project, the Sciencenter has been able to extend this mission by empowering parents, caregivers, and early childhood educators to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into everyday activities for preschool children.

Through Science from the Start, the Sciencenter develops and delivers workshops that help adults engage their children ages 3-5 years in science by providing them with the support, training, and exploration-based activities that will increase their comfort and knowledge of methods to encourage their children’s STEM learning. Studies show us that two of the greatest predictors of successful children are parental involvement in education and exploratory learning where children are free to play and think creatively. Science from the Start builds on these principles through two distinct platforms that help to strengthen the bond between parent/caregiver and child through education.

Early Explorer Educator, Victoria Fiordalis, working with Head Start teachers.

Head Start teachers working with their groups on the lessons inside of the ECHOS materials bins. The activity with the plate coincides with a hands-on cloud experiment as a precursor to get kids excited about experiments with water.

The first grant-funded Science from the Start platform consists of Professional Development workshops. The Sciencenter invites and works alongside of Tompkins Community Action Head Start/Early Head Start and the Downtown Ithaca Children’s Center teachers at monthly seminars. At each workshop, Sciencenter educators discuss current research in early childhood cognition and introduce hands-on science activities from the ECHOS (Early Childhood Hands on Science) Curriculum* that educators can utilize in their own classrooms. Educators may replicate or adjust activities to meet the needs of their students while putting research-based principles to work.

The second platform is a series of on-site Family Workshops at the museum and off-site lessons at several Head Start locations. At each workshop, parents and their children are invited to work with Sciencenter educators as they share current research and instruct hands-on activities to encourage science behaviors in young children. This is coupled with one of the Sciencenter’s free  on-site program, Science Together, where guests at the museum participate in programming twice a week to learn science principles through stories and activities that can be applied at home.

Teachers working in a group.

Early Explorer Educator, Victoria Fiordalis, working with Head Start teachers.

By strengthening existing partnerships with local daycare centers and preschools and expanding our reach with the Sciencenter’s current audience, Science from the Start builds the Sciencenter’s capacity to meet the needs of our youngest guests by creating science literate, engaged adults who can inspire STEM learning at home, in school, and at the museum.

Since the commencement of the Science from the Start program, we have recognized several areas for improvement and modification to better meet the needs of our audience. By collecting surveys and communicating directly with program participants, we were able to determine that the Professional Development Teacher Workshops would be more successful with a monthly schedule; this small adjustment has resulted in noticeable increased accountability by the educators in attendance.

Initially, each Teacher workshop was intended to be a presentation and discussion of new materials followed by hands-on interaction for attendees to learn the process of each lessons. After listening to feedback, we revised each workshop to begin with Sciencenter educators briefly introducing various planned science activities, and then following up after each teacher has interacted with the materials to discuss what worked and what didn’t to determine best practices. This has not only resulted in a positive, team-based atmosphere, but has also allowed the Sciencenter staff to build stronger, ongoing relationships with the educators. In addition, since the Sciencenter works with teachers of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children, many of the ECHOS materials had to be adapted to better fit these learning levels.

Teachers working on water demonstrations.

Head Start teachers practice the interactive demonstrations to show how water collects and falls.

The Science from the Start Parent Workshops have also evolved since the start of the program. Originally billed as parent training, they are now offered as “family” workshops open to parents and children to work and learn side by side. Parents are able to try activities and apply lessons immediately with their children and determine what works and what does not, and receive prompt response and support from Sciencenter educators.

The evaluators we have utilized for both platforms of this program have helped us immensely to think about what feedback we need and how to analyze that feedback in a constructive and effective way so that we may promote change and growth. Recent advances in early childhood science point to the immediacy of early learning experiences. These findings are a testament to the incredible learning potential of young children and as a well-used learning resource for families with young children, the Sciencenter is thrilled to enhance science education in our community by providing parents, caregivers, and educators with new opportunities to connect their children with science in the formative years.

*ECHOS (Early Childhood Hands on Science) Curriculum was created in Miami through the Patricia and Philip Frost Museum of Science and was researched and evaluated by Miami-Dade County Head Start classrooms.

Amy Gaulke is the Public and Media Relations Manager at the Sciencenter. The Sciencenter inspires excitement for science through 250+ interactive exhibits and programs that engage, educate, and empower.

Posted in Early Learning, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Museums for America, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Leave a comment

Read the First Four National Digital Platform Grant Proposals

By Trevor Owens
Senior Library Program Officer, IMLS

We recently announced the first series of awards addressing the national digital platform priority in the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program. This is both a strategic priority for the agency and part of a new proposal process.

You can now read the original preliminary proposals, the full proposal narratives, schedules of completion, and the projects’ digital supplementary forms.

The Initial National Digital Platform Projects

Below are brief descriptions of each of the four initial national digital platform projects. In each case, we have provided links to the proposal documents for readers to further understand these projects.

  • Fostering a New National Library Network through a Community-­Based, Connected Repository System (LG-70-15-0006): The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Stanford University, and DuraSpace will foster a greatly expanded network of open-access, content-hosting “hubs” that will enable discovery and interoperability, as well as the reuse of digital resources by people from this country and around the world. The three partners will engage in a major development of the community-driven open source Hydra project to provide these hubs with a new all-in-one solution, which will also allow countless other institutions to easily join the national digital platform.
  • Museum Hub for Open Content (LG-70-15-0002): ARTstor, in collaboration with the El Paso Museum of Art, the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Staten Island Museum, and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) will create and implement software to enable museums to contribute digital image collections for open public access. The project will lower barriers to museum contributions to the DPLA by producing enhanced metadata tools, intellectual property rights decision support tools, and a direct-to-DPLA publishing capacity.
  • Combining Social Media Storytelling with Web Archives (LG-71-15-0077): Old Dominion University and the Internet Archive will collaborate to develop tools and techniques for integrating “storytelling” social media and web archiving. The partners will use information retrieval techniques to (semi-)automatically generate stories summarizing a collection and mine existing public stories as a basis for librarians, archivists, and curators to create collections about breaking events.
  • Repository Services for Accessible Course Content (LG-72-15-0009): This planning project, led by Tufts University, will bring together experts from disability services, including librarians, IT professionals, advocates, and legal counsel, to develop work plans for shared infrastructure, within which universities can support their students with disabilities. The intention is to create specifications and a business model that will complement existing platforms and services.

Why Access to Proposal Documents?

For several reasons, we are excited to be able to openly share documents related to each of these proposals.

  1. Everyone Can Follow Along: These proposals are intended to make a national impact. We like the idea of these documents being out there so that folks from around the country can read along and see where these projects are planning to go.
  2. Working toward Defaulting to Open: IMLS is committed to working toward becoming more open and transparent, and sharing these documents is a step in the right direction to increasingly defaulting towards open.
  3. What’s in a Winning Proposal? This is the first time that we have used a two-step process (a call for 2-page preliminary proposals reviewed by a panel, resulting in the invitation of a subset of those to submit full proposals and a second round of peer review). So, when potential applicants look to apply in future cycles, it will be very useful for them to be able to see documents that succeeded as points of reference.

What Are These Documents?

  • Full Proposal Abstract: A one-page gloss of the proposed project.
  • Full Proposal Narrative: These ten-page documents were created for each of the projects that were invited to submit a full proposal. They lay out the case for why it is needed, for how it will be accomplished, what its outcomes will be, and how it will approach evaluation.
  • Schedule of Completion: A short document laying out the schedule and timeline for the project.
  • Digital Content Supplementary Form: The document that gives applicants the space to answer questions about any digital products they will create (content, software, data sets etc.). Only proposals creating digital content need to fill this form out.
  • Preliminary Proposal: The initial two-page proposals; think of them like the movie trailer for the project or the elevator pitch. These proposals were part of a set of 34 initial proposals submitted to the National Leadership Grants for Libraries priority area.


Posted in 21st Century Skills, Collections Care/Preservation, Information Infrastructure/Systems/Workflows, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), National Leadership Grants | Leave a comment

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Student Poets

By Maura Marx
Acting Director, IMLS

Last week, I had the great pleasure of attending a White House event celebrating National Poetry Month. Both President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama delivered remarks and their old friend, poet Elizabeth Alexander, read from her new book before a gathering of student poets, federal arts supporters, and others in the East Room. Earlier in the day, Elizabeth Alexander led a White House Poetry Workshop with a large group of students. My colleagues from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities were there, and we were all very proud to see National Student Poet Madeleine LeCesne introduce the President (“Former teen poet and President of the United States…”).

Madeline LeCesne speaks at the podium at the White House.

National Student Poet Madeleine LeCesne introduces President Barack Obama at the White House Poetry Workshop.

As strong supporters of the arts, the President and First Lady held up the value of poetry in education and in our lives. The President said, “I think it’s fair to say that if we didn’t have poetry, that this would be a pretty barren world. In fact, it’s not clear that we would survive without poetry. As Elizabeth once wrote, ‘We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed, words to consider, reconsider.’ That’s the power of poetry.”

The First Lady asked the students if they enjoyed the workshop earlier that afternoon and received a very hearty response. She reminded them how blessed they were to have already discovered poetry and challenged them to help their peers connect with creativity: “You guys have got to find the young people in your world, and you’ve got to pull them in and give them these opportunities and to expose them, because this kind of stuff saves lives. We see it every day.”

Her message to IMLS and other arts, cultural, and educational supporters was just as clear: “Arts is not a luxury. Everyone needs it.”

I agree and have relished every opportunity to hear about the activities of the National Student Poets. IMLS is proud to partner with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers on the nation’s highest honor for teen poets, the National Student Poets Program (NSSP). Over the past year, the program has begun coordinating with spoken word poetry groups, such as Poetry Out Loud, as well national groups like the Poetry Foundation and the American Academy of Poets, to reflect the growing movement to embrace poetry in all its forms.

The 2014 National Student Poets—Weston Clark of Indianapolis, IN; Julia Falkner of Louisville, CO; Ashley Gong of Sandy Hook, CT; Madeleine LeCesne of New Orleans, LA; and Cameron Messinides of Greenville, SC—have been to the White House and across the country participating in poetry events, workshops, and service projects.

On April 15, Ashley Gong brought the house down when she read one of her poems at the American Academy of Poets’ Poetry & The Creative Mind Gala at Lincoln Center in New York.  Later that week she read some of her poetry and conducted a workshop at the Just Buffalo Writing Center and kicked off an open mic session at Writers & Books in Rochester, New York.  Also on April 15, Cameron Messinides was a featured reader at the South Carolina Center for the Book and he introduced South Carolina poet Ray McManus. Julia Faulkner appeared at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 18, where she was introduced by Luis J. Rodriguez, Los Angeles Poet Laureate. Madeleine LeCesne was a featured reader at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, LA, on April 21.  She was special requested by Louisiana State Poet Laureate, Ava Leavell Haymon.  And on April 25, Weston Clark will be an honored guest, speaker, and workshop leader at the Indianapolis Letters About Literature Award Ceremony in his home state of Indiana.

Poetry is a very active and powerful way of engaging young people, helping them broaden their vision of the future. I encourage libraries and museums to look for new ways to encourage students’ connections to language and poetry.

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