St. Mark Preschool focuses on STEM learning

A new local kindergarten enrichment program is focusing on the importance of hands-on problem solving and creative thinking to help prepare young learners for the 21st Century.

The new curriculum at St. Mark Preschool and Enrichment Center in Mount Prospect is based on making learning fun and interactive by building creative and critical thinking through an emphasis on teaching in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) area.

Young students learn collaboration and communication skills, problem-solving techniques and innovative technology.

The program will foster children's natural curiosity by combining the spirit of "learning by building" with today's new technology tools. Applications on iPads will be used for engaging young learners in an individualized approach.

The preschool program brings technology, art and science to a kindergarten level with robotics and electronics hands-on activities. Instead of being passive consumers of technology, students will learn how to use technology to help them build projects in the real world.

For example, children learn about electronics by making "squishy circuits" with dough, or they build scientific models out of everyday found objects.

The kindergarten enrichment program has been designed to work in conjunction with local schools that already incorporate STEM into their curriculum. At Lions Park Elementary School, there is a STEM Club and Fair. Lincoln Middle School offers Gateway to Technology (a STEM/Tech Ed program) and Prospect High School has Project Lead the Way (a Pre-Engineering/College prep path).

Mount Prospect resident and parent Emily McNally believes "STEM curriculum and education is critical to introduce to our children now in order to produce the next generation of U.S. leaders, innovators and inventors … to find better solutions and implement startling new technological advancements and life-saving medical procedures that will keep the U.S. competitive in a global economy and may enhance the quality of our lives and may even extend our lives someday."

McNally, a mother of three, created the STEM club at Lions Park last fall and coordinates an annual STEM Fair.

"Introducing children to STEM curriculum early is beneficial to get them interested in STEM fields and concepts and gives them a head-start to elementary school," she said.

Nationally, President Obama has made a commitment to creating an "all-hands-on-deck approach" to STEM teaching, citing that the U.S. needs to be competitive in a rapidly changing, globally-centered workforce.

The NEA (National Education Association) plans to expand its STEM teacher training to 10,000 participants nationwide in July.

Registration is now open and ongoing for the St. Mark Preschool and Enrichment Program and is available with a flexible schedule to meet both parent and child needs. A bus drop-off and pick-up from District 57 kindergarten is optional, as is lunch.

The staff at St. Mark Lutheran Church, 200 S. Wille St., has been providing quality preschool education in Mount Prospect for more than 50 years and encourages growth of the whole child in a supportive, nurturing and safe Christian environment.

For more information about Kindergarten Enrichment or to register, call (847) 253-0631, ext. 19.

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