CitySprouts launches a new science education teacher training for Boston early educators

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Boston Early Educators Plant the Seeds for STEM Success.

Boston, MA, Sept. 17th- Concern about the cavernous gap in young people’s opportunity for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is widely shared but few consider that the pipeline to successful STEM careers starts as early as age 3. Science learning has an important role even in preschool education, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center points out in their STEM Starts Early 2017 report. National early childhood experts agree on the long-term benefits associated with children’s early exposure to quality learning experiences.  

The school garden program can serve as an excellent vehicle for introducing the world of science to young students. Pouring water, using hand trowels, noticing the difference in leaf textures– these are appropriate ways for young children to build a foundation for successful science learning. For schools and school districts struggling to close the STEM gap, garden-based learning can level the playing field by ensuring children have opportunities for guided exploration inthe garden as part of their school day.

This fall, early grade teachers at the Henderson Inclusion School and the Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester are participating in CitySprouts’ year-long series of site-based professional development workshops to support science in the school garden. The workshops series, led by Jeff Winokur and CitySprouts staff, will bridge the PreK - Grade 2 science standards and the school learning garden to increase the number of Boston children entering third grade with a solid foundation in scientific thinking and content knowledge. The training aligns with and support the BPS Early Education curriculum. CitySprouts is a program in 21 Boston and Cambridge elementary schools that supports the Massachusetts science standards with garden-based education. Winokur, Elementary and Early Childhood Science educator, has worked with school systems and programs throughout New England in the area of inquiry-based early childhood and elementary science instruction.

Authentic science learning calls for compelling materials, such as the rich life found in a garden. It means questions that push students to think, and nurturing classroom culture that supports communication. In this CitySprouts workshop series, the garden becomes the starting point for teachers helping children discover key science concepts first hand, such as plant diversity and changes over time. Teachers learn to ask students questions that spark deeper thinking, and help students learn to communicate their reasoning to others.

“The garden is full of interesting things to explore but only with an adult who asks good questions and encourages children to talk about what they see and think will children be able to build understanding and the practices of science,” says Winokur.

Throughout the project, teacher, student, and family experiences will be gathered and analyzed by Sun Associates (www.sun-associates.com), an organization experienced with working with schools and school districts throughout the country to evaluate the impact of educational initiatives and innovations.  The resulting evaluation will help shape CitySprouts’ on-going work and capture project outcomes related to the early learning workshop series.

“Garden-based education is a powerful way for children of all ages to see science in their everyday world, and to begin to see themselves as scientists,” Jane Hirschi, CitySprouts executive director notes. “CitySprouts is excited to be working with Boston schools to set young BPS students on a path of joyful science learning.”

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CitySprouts is recognized nationally as a leader in the field of garden-based education and an innovative program that bridges public education, health, nutrition, science, the environment and local food systems. For more information about CitySprouts or the early learning initiative, contact Robyn Burns, Director of Programs, at rburns@citysprouts.org.

Andrea Locke