Preschool, Pre-K students get early exposure to STEM in hopes of closing equity gap

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indianapolis kids as early as 3-years-old are getting a jump start on their future.

Nearly 300 Indianapolis children are enrolled in a program that hopes to eliminate income as a barrier to STEM education, closing the equity gap as early as preschool.

“He doesn’t know that he’s being taught. He’s just doing activities and learning is something that happens secretly,” said T.R. Fox.

His son, Lucas, is enrolled at a Day Early Learning Center.

At four years old, Lucas is already learning STEM. He’s not aware that these hands-on activities will be lessons he’ll use for years.

Fox says his son is excelling and he credits the early exposure to science, technology, engineering and math.

“He asked my wife and I the other day if an apple is a living thing,” Fox explained, “So, we had to ask him well, how do you define a living thing?”

The program is called Project Lead the Way. It’s for students in preschool and pre-k.

Michael Robinson is Lucas’s teacher. He says, the students take part in activities that turn into projects.

Then, the students address problems or how they would do things differently next time.

“Looking through magazines, cutting out things that are living and things that are non-living and separating them,” said Robinson.

Lucas and his class will soon be building and designing their own bird feeders.

“We’re teaching them to think in a different way,” said Robinson, “With having the problem to address at the end, we’re teaching them there’s no one right way to get there. They all collaborate on what worked, what didn’t work, so it’s teaching them not to fear failure but use it as a tool to learn from their mistakes.”

The next lessons will include topics on sink or float and healthy habits. Lessons that will also have a further reach.

“They work in groups of four, at this age it’s very important for us to teach them how to interact with their peers. To be able to work with three other children is hard for them, but then they learn it’s essential to have those different opinions,” said Robinson.

According to Early Learning Indiana, more than 60% of the children at Day Early Learning Centers across the city receive financial assistance to attend.

As a father, Fox says all kids need to be on an equal playing field.

“Regardless of what neighborhood they live in or their parents income,” said Fox, “all of those minds are just as equally ambitious.”

Closing the gap between children from lower and higher income families and focusing on what’s important.

“Learning how to learn,” said Fox.

Early Learning Indiana says it’s the first community-based early learning program in the country to offer this program to preschool and pre-k students.

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