Back by Popular Demand, the Foundation for Early Learning’s UNI: a Portable STEM Early Learning Lab Returns to Westlake Park for Family Fun Week

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Back by popular demand, the Foundation for Early Learning’s UNI: a Portable STEM Early Learning Lab returns to Westlake Park for Family Fun Week on August 14th, from 10-3pm.

The UNI was awesome. I learned so much about connecting with kids (AND parents) with science from watching them in action.

Back by popular demand, the Foundation for Early Learning’s UNI: a Portable STEM Early Learning Lab returns to Westlake Parks for Family Fun Week on August 14th, from 10-3pm.

More than 2000 STEM (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering) activities have been completed by Washington State’s young children since June when the Foundation kicked-off its new and signature STEM literacy initiative: A statewide tour of its UNI: A Portable Early Learning STEM Lab at Westlake Park. “It is fantastic to see the delight and engagement of children and their families when they find this outdoor STEM lab pop up in their community,” said Mark Crawford, Executive Director for Foundation for Early Learning. “Children become instant participants, pulling siblings and parents into their exploration and everyone has a terrific time.”

Winner of the 2013 National Book Award’s Innovation in Reading Award, the UNI consists of lightweight cubes that stack to create an attractive street level public gathering space. Cubes also serve as shelves, providing access to more than 30 hands-on, professionally curated STEM activities, as well as books, geared towards young children and designed to answer basic STEM questions: What's a simple machine? How does a Periscope work? What’s a simple equation? Benches provide seating and workspace, and experienced volunteers act as hosts. Children are invited to complete an activity card in exchange for a small prize. What happens next is simple and powerful: the concept of the parent as their child's first and most important teacher is illustrated and practiced, children's curiosity and imagination is sparked and neighborhoods are transformed into places where the value of early learning is recognized and promoted. For its inaugural tour, the Foundation is partnering with the Early Learning Public Library Partnership to support the outreach efforts of participating libraries. “The UNI was awesome. I learned so much about connecting with kids (and parents) with science from watching them in action," said Cathy Rathbone, Managing Librarian at the Yakima Valley Libraries whose outreach events in July at the Yakima Folklife Festival and the Yakima Farmer’s Market were bolstered by the UNI, reaching more than 200 kids.

The initiative is an outcome of the Foundation’s new strategic direction of funding and promoting thematic content areas as they pertain to early learning. In May, the Foundation announced STEM as its first theme by launching a new STEM granting program and kicking off its UNI tour. According to Washington’s Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) data, fewer than half of children in Washington State are entering kindergarten prepared in math. “The data clearly shows a need for a more focused effort to excite young children about STEM related learning,” said Crawford. “By offering a chance to preschoolers to do an activity, read a book and share the experience with their family, we hope to foster that sense of wonder and exploration.”

The 2013 UNI Tour consists of fifteen unique events throughout the State of Washington including Whatcom, Skagit, Yakima, Spokane and Pierce Counties.

To view a complete list of tour schedule, please visit our website: http://www.earlylearning.org/outreach/outreach/.

To view videos of previous events, please visit our YouTube Page: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIMIdH06EyMPMfNYq8nR6pw.

About the Foundation for Early Learning
Founded in 2000, The Foundation for Early Learning grew out of Governor Locke’s Commission on Early Learning and was started with a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In its first decade, the Foundation has played a key role in developing-community based initiatives and coalitions that support parents as their children’s first teachers. In 2013, the Foundation launched a new strategic vision, focusing its funding and outreach efforts on specific thematic content areas by investing in services and initiatives, originated in and by the field, that improve young children's lives. In May, it announced Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering (STEM) as its first theme.

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