The Principal's Primer
Research-Based Supports for Early Learning Classrooms
This bi-monthly newsletter is designed specifically for Principals and Assistant Principals with early learning classrooms on their campus. In an effort to strengthen your understanding of instructional strategies and developmentally appropriate perspectives, the Children’s Learning Institute is pleased to provide you with the latest research, best practices, resources for supporting early learning on your campus, and innovations in technology that support collaborative leadership. Past issues can be viewed in the Newsletter Archive on CLI Engage.
Dad and daughter stacking blocks
May 2020

In this issue:

STEM in Pre-K Programs

Online Lessons for Teachers

Summer Activities for Families
STEM in Pre-K Programs

As witnessed during the current pandemic, the world has an ever-increasing reliance on technology. No one knows what the future holds, but given the direction things have been going in the past few decades, technology will likely play an even larger role in day-to-day existence in years to come. Preparing students for future success will require a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
 
STEM education has become a high priority in the United States. According to multiple studies, the majority of elementary students are not proficient in national STEM expectations (e.g., Griffith & Cahill, 2009; National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006; National Center for Education Statistics, 2011; National Research Council, 2012). Despite increasing workforce needs for STEM-related careers, international comparisons show that the U.S. lags behind other industrialized nations in STEM achievement.
 
The early childhood years are increasingly recognized as a critical period for introducing STEM concepts. Given the right support, young children are capable of sophisticated reasoning. STEM learning experiences at an early age can foster the development of higher-level cognitive skills and lay the foundation for future learning.
 
According to the National Research Council, most young children do not realize their potential for math and science as evidenced by achievement gaps. In Texas, students’ scores continually reflect poor content knowledge and limited skill mastery in math and science.
 
Research shows little effective instructional time in typical pre-K and kindergarten classrooms is devoted to math and science topics (Greenfield, et al., 2009; Nayfeld, Brenneman, & Gelman, 2011; Sackes, Trundle, & Bell, 2013; Tu, 2006). Some estimates are that only 7% to 13% of the school day focuses on science and engineering topics (Connor, Morrison, & Slominski, 2006; Early et al., 2010; La Paro et al., 2009; Tu, 2006).
 
Despite typical teacher preparation requirements for college-level math and science courses, teachers are not sufficiently prepared for teaching STEM in the classroom. As a solution to this problem, the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) has developed a robust collection of digital STEM instructional resources for early childhood teachers. Working within established state learning guidelines and targeting STEM skill progressions, CLI has developed lessons around skills known to be important for prekindergartners. Our lesson framework is an innovative and feasible approach to addressing significant gaps in STEM learning at their inception. 
Online Lessons for Teachers

Quality instruction in early childhood focuses on play-based learning that combines both teacher-directed and child-directed activities. CLI has translated child development research into practice by developing multiple collections and types of classroom lessons designed for use by early childhood educators. Many of these lessons, now housed on the CLI Engage platform, have been used with much success for over a decade in the Texas School Ready project. These collections of lessons provide a wealth of options for teachers to reinforce taught concepts and prepare students for intentional activities that cover multiple developmental domains, including STEM.

Teacher-Led STEM Activities
The  CIRCLE Activity Collection: Pre-K/K  is an extensive library of classroom lessons freely available for use by Texas prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers and administrators. The collection provides hundreds of teacher-led lessons structured around a standard lesson cycle to support teaching of key school readiness skills. Over the past year, CLI faculty and content developers worked diligently to increase the quantity and scope of STEM activities included in the collection. Today, the collection contains almost 200 STEM lessons in English and Spanish . Teachers can search the entire collection by alignment to state guidelines or use filters that narrow their search by setting, grade level, or learning domain. Each lesson includes scripting for the teacher’s use in introducing, modeling, and scaffolding children’s responses. Thus allowing the teacher the ability to individualize the activity to best match the skill levels of their students.

Child-Facing STEM Activities
Recently, CLI set out to innovate the means through which students engage with STEM content by combining multimedia, digital exercises, and activities that ask students to apply the concepts learned. Through a partnership with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), CLI was allowed to select and use video from their extensive library that includes STEM content presented in a child-friendly and entertaining manner. The result of this collaboration was the development of 20 new child-directed lessons designed to be launched by a teacher for the student to use. Created around the PBS videos, students are guided through online lessons teaching foundational STEM skills known to be important for 3-6 year olds. Set in a virtual laboratory setting, the CIRCLE STEM Lab integrates the video segments with hands-on activities to be completed by the child . Each activity is designed to facilitate independent learning by individual students.

CIRCLE Stem Lab activities will be available this fall in the CIRCLE Activity Collection for use by your teachers. The below links provide access to the first few completed activities that can be previewed by logging in to CLI Engage.
When previewing the new CIRCLE STEM Lab activities, we ask that you please enter "CLI" in place of the student's name.
Mother and son playing with blocks
Summer Activities for Families

Many studies have shown that families and teachers working together to support children’s development can lead to better outcomes for children. That is why CLI developed the CIRCLE Activity Collection: Family . This collection includes a variety of hands-on activities that families can do at home with children ages 0-6. The included activities were designed or adapted for parents and caregivers to support skill growth using everyday materials in the home environment. Families can support school readiness skills simply by using these fun, play-based activities together. Available in both English and Spanish versions, these activities can be accessed online at any time at https://cliengagefamily.org . With no sign up or fees, families can search by child's age, learning area, or the inclusion of video demonstrations to find fun learning opportunities for everyone to participate in during the summer months ahead.
Father and daughter baking
CLI Wishes You & Your Staff a Spectacular Summer
CLI Engage is part of the Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth