Bowdoin College and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance have received more than $2.25 million to improve instructional materials of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for pre-k and kindergarten students and teachers. This funding was awarded through the National Science Foundation.

Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance received $1.3 million and Bowdoin received $951,413 for this collaborative project, which will conduct research at more than a dozen participating preschool and kindergarten classrooms from three demographically distinct areas.

The project will investigate how and to what extent preschoolers and kindergarteners can engage in science and engineering practices in play-based learning environments. The project will also explore how spaces, materials and instruction can support and extend children’s engagement with science and engineering practices.

“Learning through play is critical in all aspects of child development,” said Assistant Professor of Education Alison Riley Miller, Bowdoin College’s principal investigator on the project. “We are building on prior research that demonstrates how rich, meaningful science sense-making happens naturally through play, and we are interested in understanding how teachers can create environments that may deepen and enrich these opportunities for children.”

“Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are critical skills in the 21st century economy that unlock countless doors to high-paying, in-demand fields. Introducing these subjects to Maine’s youngest learners can help them build a strong foundation to succeed throughout their school years and the rest of their lives,” Maine’s senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, said in a joint statement. “We welcome this investment, which will leverage Bowdoin’s expertise and allow the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance to build on its proven track record of promoting STEM teaching and learning in schools across the state. By supporting preschool and kindergarten teachers’ efforts to engage their students in STEM through play, this program can inspire young students and serve as a model nationwide.”

“Maine offers an incredible context to study how children naturally engage in science and engineering practices through play and how teachers can create environments to deepen and enrich these experiences,” said Kate Cook, the alliance’s principal investigator on the project. “We will be collaborating with Maine educators who are already doing this work. We look forward to leveraging their expertise and building professional learning for teachers across Maine to continue to strengthen and refine their practice.”

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