By Alberto Suris
LAWRENCE, MA — The GLCAC’s Head Start program recently won recognition for its innovation and leadership in teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics to preschoolers. In a ceremony attended by Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, Lawrence Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Riley, parents and GLCAC staff, three prize-winning teachers were honored for using bridges and statues to help preschoolers learn STEM concepts, and the students in those classes received certificates declaring them “Head Start Civil Engineers.”
The Head Start teachers have received awards from the Essex County Association for the Education of Young Children at its annual “Best Practices in STEM Fair.” STEM is an area of increasing importance and focus in early childhood education, particularly at the GLCAC’s Head Start program.
Teachers Angela Amenta and Merletca Delgado won first place at the 2013 STEM fair for leading their class at the Head Start on Park Street in studying how bridges are built and in building a bridge in the playground, with help from the GLCAC maintenance staff. Last year, teacher Angeline Bombard placed third for utilizing statues in the Common to learn STEM concepts.
“Even before these students can read, our wonderful teachers are introducing them to basic scientific and mathematical concepts in interesting and engaging ways that relate to their daily lives. They cross bridges to get to school or walk by statues on the Common, and we’re able to use these experiences to spark their interest in STEM that may, one day, lead them to a career in one of these important fields. I congratulate our teachers and staff for their accomplishments and the groundbreaking work they do with their students,” said Evelyn Friedman, Executive Director of the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council Inc., a Lawrence-based social services agency that serves 29,000 individuals annually with a variety of programs to help families achieve economic self-sufficiency.
“In addition to assuring school readiness and family engagement, the GLCAC’s Head Start program is actively striving to be a leader in STEM education and to make each of our students a ‘STEM Star’ so when they graduate from our program, they have a solid educational foundation in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as in language and arts. For us, STEM is not just one activity a day, it’s woven throughout our curriculum, from teaching biology and nutrition in our vegetable gardens to teaching language skills in our dual-language video chats with students in other schools,” said Anne D’Errico, Program Director of the agency’s five Head Start centers in Lawrence and Methuen.
The Head Start program has three STEM laboratory classrooms equipped with interactive smart boards, tablets, and a variety of math, science and literacy materials. The teachers are trained in planning STEM lessons that will engage the children in critical thinking and problem solving, developing integrated curricula, and aligning Head Start frameworks, the state Preschool Learning Guidelines, and the state Department of Education Curriculum Standards.
In studying bridges, the preschoolers looked at pictures of bridges, had classroom discussions, learned related vocabulary, took field trips to bridges, and built bridges both with blocks in the classroom and with lumber in the playground, with assistance from the GLCAC maintenance staff.
In studying statues on The Common, preschoolers visited the various monuments, drew pictures of them, and built monuments using blocks. They planned and designed monuments using recyclable materials and explored the chemical changes and reactions as they mixed and measured sand-mixtures to create building materials.
In addition, the examined the different texture, weight, size and other attributes of materials used to construct statues, including marble, granite and bronze.