The proof is in the pudding: An inaugural event celebrating the Week of the Young Child at Fort Hays State University was a success.
In the event Wednesday morning, students in Tiger Tots Nurtury Center, a campus daycare and preschool, made pudding for their snack, painted with magnets and food coloring and attempted to build a tower of plastic eggs.
Each of the stations was designed around different concepts of STEAM — science, technology, education, art and mathematics.
FHSU education students, student volunteers, faculty and Tiger Tots staff assisted the children, helping them measure, build and create at each of four stations.
At one station, the children got a hand scooping powder into a container, then adding milk and shaking the sealed containers to a song. The resulting pudding, along with a graham cracker, became their snack for the morning.
“They’re measuring, so they are doing math. Also science because they are mixing that dry and that liquid and predicting what’s going to happen when they put it together,” said Sara Stroup, Tiger Tots director and instructor in the teacher ed department.
In another station, the children put drops of food coloring into a pan of milk, then dipped in a cotton swab coated with liquid dish soap, making the colors swirl away from the cotton swab.
At a third station, they moved a magnet against the underside of a plastic tray to “paint” with metal objects like washers and ball bearings.
At the fourth station, the kids could practice their engineering skills by seeing how high they could stack plastic eggs connected with play dough.
The exercises were designed to align with STEAM standards in kindergarten through sixth grade, Stroup said.
“This gives them the early start that they are needing,” she said.
“It enriches all of the academic skills at an early age, that window of time before age 8 when the brain is developing so rapidly,” she said.
The exercises also incorporate project-based learning, an educational model that incorporates several areas of learning in one project.
In the egg tower activity, for example, the students were using engineering skills, but measuring also used math skills.
“So they’re incorporating math skills. They’re brining multiple areas into one activity. And that’s how a lot of our classrooms are starting to look like now,” said Laney Roths, instructor in teacher education.
“It also lets it be more student-led learning,” Roths said. “They have some control over what it is they’re learning because they may come up with an idea that we may not even have planned for, which is exciting.”
The event also was a learning experience for the FHSU students, even for those who had worked with young children previously.
“I’ve always worked with kids, so I thought it was going to be super easy to talk to them,” said Presley Oliphant, an elementary education major from Utah who helped the tots at the pudding station.
“At the beginning, I didn’t know what I was going to say, because they all just kind of looked at me like, ‘What are you saying?’
“I didn’t realize you had to go step by step by step. By the end, I knew how to teach them how to measure and what goes in what,” she said.
Kemberly Zamora is an elementary education and Spanish major from Liberal. She would like to teach fifth grade, but said working with the younger children was beneficial.
“It definitely shows you need to be patient with the younger kids. It’s given me an insight into what teaching kindergarten or pre-school would be,” she said.
Stroup said working with the small Tiger Tots group was a good test for the first year of the event. The goal is to offer the event each year with a different theme and invite other pre-schools from the area to participate.