Preschoolers learn in STEM lab

Posted 12/6/19

In a classroom at Land of Learning Child Care, kids are often heard saying, “Look at this!” and “See what I did?”

Greyson Bryant stacked up a set of blocks into a mini …

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Preschoolers learn in STEM lab

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Drew C. Wilson | Times

In a classroom at Land of Learning Child Care, kids are often heard saying, “Look at this!” and “See what I did?”

Greyson Bryant stacked up a set of blocks into a mini skyscraper.

Lennox Jones connected long frames and columns to make a building over his 5-year-old head.

Aubrey Liles put a fourth floor on her building made from plastic construction materials.

The activity was in the new STEM lab added to the Wilson child care facility.

In the lab, students can explore the light-splitting qualities of a prism, learn to identify various insects, discover the effects of gravity or see the progress of a growing plant.

“The STEM lab gives the children that are 3 and 4 access twice a week to go in and experiment with the different types of science,” said Land of Learning co-owner Christy Fyle. “STEM is science, technology, engineering and math. Each week, our science instructor goes through different activities and concepts that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to do in their classrooms.”

“We have always had science in our classrooms, but we have never had a science teacher to elaborate on what could be done with science in a preschool area,” Fyle said. “It is a real focus across the United States to make sure the opportunities in science as far as careers and just having a good knowledge of how machines work.”

Fyle said the instructors put the items in front of the children and ask them questions, which leads them to discovering how things work on their own.

“We’ve got marble runs and light boards. We’ve planted gardens. We’ve got all kinds of different building materials that they can build with,” Fyle said. “It gives them experience that most kids don’t get nowadays.

“When we were little, we used to get outside and build things with wood and hammer and whatever Daddy had left over, and now kids just don’t get that opportunity,” she said. “Parents are working and busy, and they just don’t get that opportunity. We’ve had children do everything from egg drop to watching how things grow. We have grown ladybugs and let them go in our garden. We used to catch stuff and do it, and now we are trying to give them the opportunity in their weekly routines to go in there and do that.”

Fyle said children age 3 and 4 get to visit the facility twice a week.

“We have also started doing some things with 2-year-olds, very simple things such as when we go outside. ‘Does this fall? Does this drop? Does this float? Does this sink?’” Fyle said. “When you get any younger than that, it becomes difficult to do any activities with them, but the 2s are getting that, and we are hoping to add them in the spring to a regular routine.”

Land of Learning has hired Kristy Anderson, formerly with the Imagination Station Science & History Museum and Wilson County Public Library, to coordinate curriculum for the STEM program.

Fyle said the classroom development has been underway since August with new flooring and new paint.

“We wanted to make sure the equipment was right so that it was not ordinary equipment you would see in an ordinary day care,” Fyle said.

Fyle said that if you put stuff in front of kids, they are going to learn what to do with it and learn how to manipulate it.

“Just giving them the opportunity, they have been responding to it,” Fyle said.

Land of Learning was established in 1998 and currently has 272 children and a staff of more than 40.

“I don know of any other day care center that offers a STEM lab in North Carolina. We have looked around,” Fyle said. “There are several day cares that offer science, but we have always offered science. To have a science specialist and to have a lab where children can actually have these resources that they wouldn’t ordinarily have in a classroom is something unique to us.”