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Early education stresses math, science

MU program
Aug. 01, 2010 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The first phase of what officials hope will become a Pre-K through 12th-grade STEM school on Marshall University's campus is in place. The Early Education Center for 3- and 4-year-olds will reopen with an emphasis in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The move was led by Stan Maynard, the former associate dean of the College of Education and Human Services. He stepped down this year to focus his attention on the June Harless Center for Rural Educational Research and Development Model School, which is housed in Kellogg Elementary and Vinson Middle School in Huntington (Wayne County). He also is pursuing funding through various foundations to assist in the opening of an elementary, middle and high school focused on a STEM education on Marshall's campus.

While it's easy to see how a high school curriculum could be tailored toward science, technology, engineering and math, doing so for Pre-K students is a bit harder to imagine.

Maynard and studio educator Brea Wiles said age-appropriate projects will focus on those fields, and students will be made more aware of STEM fields in the fun stuff they already do.

For example, Wiles said the kids can count the number of blocks as they stack them up to see how many they get before it falls. That also could lead them into engineering, in that they can stack blocks in different ways to increase that number.

"It's more integrated into all the activities," Maynard said. "But on a level for 3- and 4-year-olds."

There's also new technology in the classroom to aid those efforts. The classroom in Corbly Hall now has a SMART Board, which is an interactive whiteboard that uses touch detection for user input. And, thanks to the Pre-K partnership with Cabell County Schools, the Early Education STEM Center also received a SMART Table. It includes pre-loaded educational games and quizzes and is designed with a young child's height in mind. Children also will have access to digital cameras and Flip Video Camcorders. The school also purchased washable keyboards and mice for three computer terminals.

"The equipment is not up on an ivory pedestal for them to look at," said Albert Simon, instructional technologist for the College of Education and Human Services. "It's theirs to use."

There also are two document cameras set up with video conferencing capabilities, so educational leaders from across the state and country can view the school.

Annette Brumfield, who most recently worked in the Harless Center at Kellogg Elementary, will serve as studio coordinator. She said the students also will be exposed to global studies and Spanish.

The center will use Cabell County's Creative Curriculum as a framework, Wiles and Brumfield said. That way, there is latitude in allowing for child-initiated topics.

"Whatever the children are interested in, we derive the projects from that," Wiles said.

The center also will serve Marshall education students with opportunities for practicum hours, which is how Wiles herself was first exposed to the center a few years ago. There also is an observation room for college students and others to watch how the center operates.

The center can accommodate 20 children, and six spots remained as of Friday afternoon. Classes start Monday, Aug. 30, and will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The school will follow the Marshall University employee calendar, with the school year ending in early June 2011. Students will be served breakfast, lunch and a snack.

Cost of tuition is based on household income. If it is $40,000 or less, tuition is $450 per month; $40,000 to $60,000 is $500 per month; and above $60,000 is $550 per month.

Children must be 3 years old by Aug. 30 to qualify for enrollment. Children who turn 4 years old by Aug. 30 and who live in West Virginia are eligible for free tuition under the state's Pre-K program.

For more information, contact Wiles by phone at 304-696-3498 or by e-mailing wiles7@marshall.edu.

The center is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children's National Academy of Early Childhood Programs.

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