Preschoolers “On the Go” at the Department of Education

Children begin their learning activities after receiving a sticker from the “Word Machine” (upper left). Each sticker has the name and picture of a vehicle. (Photo courtesy of HINN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Children begin their learning activities after receiving a sticker from the “Word Machine” (upper left). Each sticker has the name and picture of a vehicle. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

“Things That Go” was the theme of a recent Family Day Event at the Department of Education headquarters that featured the latest efforts of the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s (HITN) Early Learning Collaborative (ELC), which uses an innovative transmedia approach to early learning.

More than 30 young children from the University of the District of Columbia Lab School and the Barbara Chambers Children’s Center of Washington, D.C., many of them English language learners, attended the event, along with their teachers, parents, and education professionals.

HITN Coloring (cropped)

A preschooler colors his vehicle as part of his journey to Baby Bird’s birthday party. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Through a series of hands-on activities, the children and adults engaged in a rich variety of experiences based on ELC’s English language development transmedia PlayGround called “Things That Go.” The PlayGround includes non-digital and digital materials, Web-based games, and the PlaySet— ELC’s tablet-based app.

This transmedia approach develops pathways to early learning through play and multiple, interconnected platforms that include storybooks, puzzles, picture/word games, as well as Web-based games and highly engaging digital apps. In 2013, ELC launched the pilot phase of its transmedia preschool learning PlayGround and tablet-based PlaySet at the Newseum (see this OII home page article for more information).

The Family Day Event modeled the transmedia learning experiences possible in informal educational settings. The “Word Machine” — a colorful, real-life character — gave each child a sticker with a picture of a vehicle and pronounced the word in both English and Spanish. The children were then able to “make their way” to Baby Bird’s birthday party through a series of hands-on and physical activities that promoted their understanding and use of words for things that go, the things that make them go, and directional words. They participated in activities such as building three-dimensional models of things that go; personalizing pictures with stickers, stamps, markers, and crayons; moving creatively to music; and collaboratively solving puzzles located on the floor, on an electronic touch table, or on the tablet-based PlaySet.

Sonnet Takahisa, an HITN consultant, leads the children in creative movement as part of their exploration of things that go. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Sonnet Takahisa, an HITN consultant, leads the children in creative movement as part of their exploration of things that go. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

The ELC’s research-based strategies support early English language development by offering children and adults opportunities to use language as they interact in playful, creative, and purposeful ways.

This spring’s event launched another phase of the ELC project — collaborations with museums, libraries, and other informal learning settings where preschool children and their families have access to learning experiences that prepare them for kindergarten. Representatives from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) attended the Family Day Event and shared copies of Growing Young Minds, an IMLS report that is part of its Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

Museums and libraries “are adept at providing hands-on experiential learning,” according to Susan Hildreth, IMLS executive director, and should be fully leveraged for their “partnership capacity” in providing high-quality early learning in communities. ELC plans to meet with IMLS, as well as the Smithsonian Institution and the Association of Children’s Museums, to pursue strategies for collaboration.

HITN’s Early Learning Collaborative is funded through a $30 million Department of Education Ready to Learn (RTL) grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement. The RTL program encourages and supports the development and use of video and digital programming to promote early learning and school readiness for young children and their families, as well as the dissemination of educational outreach programs and materials to promote school readiness. The HITN Early Learning Collaborative is one of three RTL grant recipients, each of which received awards in 2010.

Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement and editor of OII’s home page.

 

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