The EcoTarium, New England’s leading science and nature center, has been awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to explore its role as a local leader in informal science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-focused preschool education. The EcoTarium is one of nineteen museums and libraries across the country whose innovative programs to prepare young children for school and to ensure grade level reading have been supported through this year’s $2.5 million round of funding, part of an IMLS initiative to support the goals of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
The $48,920 award will allow the EcoTarium to develop a STEM-focused early childhood strategic plan as an important step towards expanding its successful preschool program and early childhood teacher development curricula. The study will determine the feasibility of developing a STEM-focused learning laboratory within the museum setting, and create an assessment tool useful to other museums interested in early childhood education. The EcoTarium will partner with Worcester Public Schools and the School of Education at Anna Maria College on the project.
“School readiness and grade-level reading in children are crucial to their ability to learn STEM concepts,” said Joseph Cox, EcoTarium president. “We are very excited about this opportunity to explore how the EcoTarium can help prepare young children for school and lifelong learning.”
Research has shown that low-income students often start kindergarten without the academic and social skills they need to succeed. Early learning programs can ensure that children are ready to start school and to become successful readers. A study by the National Research Council found that providing young children with research-based mathematics and science learning is likely to pay off with increased achievement, literacy, and work skills in these critical areas.
“I’m excited about exploring how we can work with early childhood student teachers so they will feel comfortable with STEM subjects throughout their careers,” said Maureen McConnell, EcoTarium museum educator. Ensuring that teachers have content knowledge in these subjects, the skills to engage students through inquiry-based learning, and confidence in their abilities is paramount to their success as educators and to the success of their students. Addressing teacher training programs also means that teachers will be STEM-ready from day one.
About the EcoTarium
EcoTarium is New England's leading science and nature center, an indoor-outdoor venue dedicated to inspiring a passion for science and nature in visitors of all ages. The center offers a museum building with three floors of interactive exhibits and is home to live animal habitats, interpretive nature trails through forest and meadow, the Alden Digital Planetarium, a tree canopy walkway (seasonal) and a narrow-gauge railroad.
The EcoTarium, located at 222 Harrington Way in Worcester, Mass., is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays 12 to 5 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $8 for children 2-18, $10 for seniors 65+ and students with ID. Parking is free. For more information, visit www.ecotarium.org.
About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Our grants, policy development, and research helps communities and individuals thrive by providing broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning. To learn more about IMLS, please visit www.imls.gov.
About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, launched in early 2011, is a collaboration among foundations, national nonprofits, states, and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. For more information, visit http://gradelevelreading.net/
Manager of Communications and Marketing