When one thinks of STEM (or STEAM with arts included), one typically thinks of programs that demand creativity, problem-solving, independent thought and inquisitiveness. Yet, for much of history and even today, children have been treated as vessels. They are expected to sit quietly and absorb as much information as a teacher with a standardized lesson plan can dispense. And then at testing time, these children are expected to regurgitate what they have been taught. This modern trend can be attributed to the mistaken belief that testing is a good way to measure a schools' progress, establish their funding and track a child's development.
In response to these trends and the fact that approximately 40% of children nationwide do not receive a preschool education, Leora Lazarus, better known as Teacher Lee, started a free developmental preschool program that she self-funded for the first four years. The Play-To-Learn™ program champions individuality, curiosity, problem-solving, creativity and free play. It is child directed and adult guided. The most remarkable aspect of the program is that a parent or caregiver is required at every class. While the adults play at one of the many stations in the classroom with their children, they are shown how to use developmental teaching techniques that turn the world into a classroom. Helping parents learn how to guide their children's learning sets those children up for future success and instills in them the skills needed to be successful in future endeavors, including STEM studies.
To support the continued success of this novel program, Teacher Lee has written a book based on the MATAL Science Program, originated at the University of Tel Aviv, which was designed to teach scientific concepts and thinking skills to young children. The book aims to support parents who do not have access to a preschool and have limited resources in the home. It guides them to be both a better-informed parent and an effective teacher by offering simple ways to use everyday activities as teaching opportunities.
The publishing of "The Teacher Lee Supercharged School Readiness Program" and the accompanying DVD and online resource center is being crowd funded through Indiegogo.com (http://www.indiegogo.com/teacherlee) and aims to raise a minimum of $30,000 by April 18. The sale of the book will ultimately help fund the free preschool program.
"This book is a complete guide to bringing an outstanding preschool education into the home," says Teacher Lee. "I have drawn on my 30 years of classroom experience to construct a program that teaches parents the fundamentals of developmental learning. Because developmental learning relies on encouraging a child's curiosity and creativity there are endless ways parents can incorporate it into the everyday lives of their preschool age children. Our goal is to use every means available to help parents and caregivers prepare their children for kindergarten, because every child deserves a fair start.
"Now that the federal government has announced plans to fund wider access to preschool education, the need to champion developmental teaching is greater than ever. By tying funding to testing we expect to see less child-directed adult-guided learning and much more emphasis on academics. Even families that can afford a preschool benefit from the Teacher Lee program. The one-size-fits-all testing environment can stifle creativity, individuality and independent thinking and our free program provides balance to that," Teacher Lee added.
There's a short- and long-term impact to what Teacher Lee offers. Kindergarten readiness is the immediate goal and that positively impacts achievement throughout the child's school career and into adulthood. According to the Committee for Economic Development, "high-quality preschool programs offer societal benefits that far outweigh program costs by improving later education, employment, earnings, and crime outcomes for students who attend preschool."
The Alliance for Quality Education provided statistics that show children who have attended preschool have a 29% better chance of getting into college. A RAND corporation study in 2008 on "The Nature and Quality of Early Care and Education for Preschool Age Children in California" estimated that high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds could result in 730 fewer dropouts, 1000 fewer children held back a grade in school, and 4600 fewer child years of special education in San Diego county alone.
A Chicago study indicated that children without a preschool education are 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime before the age of 18, while here in San Diego county, the RAND study estimated that preschool could result in 2150 fewer juvenile petitions.
The Alliance for Quality Education summarized these benefits by stating "every $1 invested in pre-k saves taxpayers up to $7."
"With the increased focus on STEM and STEAM programs in American schools, it is more important than ever to teach children the critical skills of creativity, independent thinking, problem solving and inquisitiveness. My program helps train parents to make those skills a part of their children's everyday life," said Teacher Lee. "This new book will empower parents to provide all the benefits of this much needed preschool education to their children at minimal cost and in a way that their children will love."
Teacher Lee adds, "Children play to learn, shouldn't we all learn to play?"
To access the Teacher Lee indiegogo crowd funding campaign visit http://www.indiegogo.com/teacherlee