SciTech wins Dunham grant to expand playground
By Kalyn Belsha firstname.lastname@example.org October 7, 2013 3:52PM
Paige Stumm (from left), Gwen Poss and McKenzie Gordon, all 4, work on an activity about the life cycle of an apple at SciTech Hands On Museum's preschool on Wednesday with teacher Karen Nicholas. | Kalyn Belsha~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2013 6:45PM
AURORA — Four-year-old McKenzie Gordon proudly displayed the paper plate she had decorated with pictures of seeds, trees, flowers and apples as part of her preschool class at SciTech Hands On Museum in downtown Aurora.
The morning’s lesson focused on the life cycle of the fruit, part of a unit about the science of the fall harvest.
The two-year-old program now has 32 students in preschool and kindergarten enrolled and a waiting list for next year.
And pretty soon, those students will have a brand-new outdoor playground and additional indoor activities, thanks to a recently awarded $20,000 Dunham Fund Challenge Grant.
Julie Bauman, head of SciTech’s school, said the money will allow the museum to invest in more science activities that can be used by the school, as well as visitors to the children’s museum.
Inside, the museum will renovate a large space for kids with exhibits that focus on motor skills for young children and encourage physical activity, such as a working floor piano — like in the movie “Big” — a wall with projections for learning about blending colors and a system of tubes where students can learn about air pressure and gravity.
The museum hopes to have those renovations complete by the end of the year.
Construction on the new outdoor playground will begin in February or March, when the ground thaws, and include age-appropriate equipment that relates to science, such as a large piece shaped like a rocket ship.
The museum plans to have all construction done by next fall when students arrive for a new school year.
Bauman got another good piece of news recently: she was named a champion of STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and will be presented with one of three prestigious awards at the annual conference of the International STEM Education Association, a Kansas-based nonprofit that supports STEM education and best practices.
“This was very unexpected,” Bauman said. “I was very pleased and honored to receive this award.”
To win the award, which honors public and private school teachers, as well as educators who’ve brought STEM to their community, Bauman had to seek letters of recommendation, demonstrate her contribution to the STEM community and show the growth of her school.
SciTech started its preschool program in 2012, added kindergarten this year and now is looking for funding to expand to first and second grades.
The conference, which will be held Oct. 6 to 8 in Branson, Mo., will include workshops about integrating STEM into the classroom and improving STEM curriculum, a popular topic among local educators, especially as Aurora leaders work to develop a kindergarten-to-12th-grade STEM pipeline.