The White House honors Erikson Institute's commitment to advancing early STEM learning

4.21.2016 White House STEM Symposium 2Two new Erikson Institute programs that will advance early learning STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) were honored by The White House for their commitment to “promoting STEM learning across the country.”

Erikson was the only Chicago-based organization whose commitments to increasing access to high-quality STEM education were honored by The White House as it kicked off an Early Learning STEM symposium in April, which Erikson leaders were invited to attend.

“It is an honor for Erikson Institute to receive this important national recognition for our efforts to advance STEM for young children in early learning environments, classrooms and at home,” said Geoffrey A. Nagle, Ph.D., Erikson’s president and chief executive officer. “Through research, education and empowering parents and teachers, we are deepening our commitment to early STEM learning with a particular focus on the areas of technology and math.”

The White House highlighted two new Erikson programs offered through the Early Math Collaborative and the Technology in Early Childhood Center.

  • The Technology in Early Childhood Center will launch an online repository for STEM learning plans that align to early childhood development goals; organize a conference to focus on teacher preparation for teaching STEM to young children with developmental and learning disabilities; develop a technology integration approach that supports early STEM learning; and, in collaboration with the national Association of Children’s Museums and the Association for Library Services to Children, deliver STEM professional development to library and museum educators across the country.
  • The Early Math Collaborative, in partnership with the City of Chicago and with support from the National Science Foundation, will launch Collaborative Math, a new professional development model designed to establish excellence in early math teaching in early childhood programs. The Early Math Collaborative will implement the new model at 28 Head Start sites in Chicago.

4.21.2016 White House STEM Symposium 3The STEM symposium was a chance for early childhood leaders to share their knowledge, experience, and ideas about STEM education. Participants from Erikson and other institutions and organizations discussed topics that included empowering parents to teach STEM concepts in the home, providing STEM-related professional development to educators, and making STEM accessible to families from diverse socio-economic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds.

“Erikson has made a concerted effort to narrow the STEM divide by bringing quality early STEM education to the teachers, parents, and children in diverse communities in Chicago and across the nation,” said Jie-Qi Chen, Ph.D, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, dean of faculty, and founder of Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative, one of three Erikson leaders who attended the symposium. “It is important that Erikson continues to play a leading role in this area by generating new knowledge, helping transform the early childhood workforce, and disseminating the information to educate the public.”

In addition to Dr. Chen, the summit also was attended by Jennifer McCray, Ph.D., assistant research scientist and director of the Early Math Collaborative, and Chip Donohue, Ph.D., dean of Distance Learning and Continuing Education and director of Erikson’s Technology in Early Childhood Center.

Because early STEM education is still an emerging area of research, Erikson is in a position to lead the conversation and help develop new and better knowledge that can translate into curriculum development, Dr. Chen said. It is critical that the voices of parents and teachers are heard in the discussions about STEM, so researchers have a strong understanding of what they want and need to know in order to “shorten the distance between research and practice.”

“STEM is not just a set of knowledge, skills, and activities that young children learn,” she said. “Behind STEM are the processes of thinking, making sense, and problem solving. Early STEM provides young children with a set of tools to think about, see, and understand the world in new ways. It enriches and expands their understanding of the world.”