With the mission to provide young learners with the mindsets and learning frameworks needed to innovate in a world of constant change, the Young Innovators Academy curriculum team is incorporating Maker-Centered Learning. This method will push our preschool program and curriculum further with a framework that places the interests and passions of young learners first.
In order to train the team, Project Zero researchers Dr. Edward Clapp and Dr. Lynneth Solis visited Oviedo to participate in different events aimed to prepare educators, parents, and community leaders on how to incorporate pedagogies and practices of Maker-Centered Learning.
"I am so proud of what we have created and developed for our young learners when it comes to the curriculum," said Marnie Forestieri, CEO and founder of Young Innovators Academy. "Our curriculum team is always searching for ways to push our curriculum even further and we believe Project Zero's and Harvard University's research on Maker-Centered Learning accomplishes this by placing the interests and passions of young learners at the center of the process and offers educators practical tools to frame children's learning."
The Young Innovators curriculum team pioneered the introduction of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) concepts and books for early childhood professionals and parents including the Gryphon House award-winning books, "Simple STEAM" and "STEM Play."
"We believe that innovation is never complete, and curriculum and teaching practices have to evolve," said Forestieri. "As educators, what we discover every day in the classrooms is that in order to engage learners at a deeper level, educators have to unveil children's passions and interests first. That is the reason our curriculum has evolved to integrate opportunities for making during the day across all learning domains, including within our STEAM classes. Our commitment to making learning memorable and creating joyful classes is evidenced in every classroom as our classroom design is centered around a maker space and learning in a fun way."
After each lesson, children are invited to make learning visible through original projects that reflect their interpretations of the lesson and serve as documentation of their learning experiences. During "making time" after concepts are introduced, children participate in innovation parties that integrate original music written by Dr. Debby Mitchell to help reinforce maker mindsets. These can include:
- The importance of failing
- Finding new innovative ways to solve a problem
According to researchers, children that are exposed to Maker-Centered Learning see themselves as people who can create, take responsibility of their learning, and become independent learners without being dependent on others.
"When you empower a child to understand that they can take things apart to understand how they work, and that they can set goals to create something original, you are providing that child with a powerful framework that builds on the creative confidence of the early years," added Forestieri.
"Making" makes things memorable. For example, during a space unit, children create a rocket to help launch a space mission that will help them find missing letters and solve math problems in outer space while learning about gravity, planets, and space. In another lesson, children imagine, name, and create a city while learning about construction materials, solving math problems, and becoming part of the city's newspaper team.
Young Innovators Academy understands that teaching practices are the biggest quality indicator of an early childhood education. In order to provide the tools and practices of Maker-Centered Learning in their classrooms, Dr. Edward Clapp and Dr. Lynneth Solis introduced participants to the history of making, practices, thinking routines, and practical tools.