Research

Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute receives award to launch Center for the Advancement in Early STEM Education

The center will increase the body of knowledge of current evidence-based practices for early STEM learning, including early computer science learning for young children with disabilities.

Child take toys out of a cardboard box.
The UNC Department of Physics and Astronomy hosted 4th-grade classes from three schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district for Science is Awesome Outreach Day on May 15, 2018, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. UNC sophomore physics major Margie Bruff helps students during a hands-on exercise at Phillips Hall. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, in collaboration with the University of Denver and other experts in the field, will work to grow the knowledge base around STEM in early childhood, including how to increase access and participation for young children with disabilities in STEM learning through a new award, the center for the Advancement of Early STEM Education. The five-year, $7,250,000 award is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.

The central purpose of the new center is to increase the body of knowledge of current evidence-based practices for early STEM learning, including early computer science learning for young children with disabilities. The center also will work to increase the knowledge, capacity, and use of evidence-based practices in early STEM learning for young children, including young children with disabilities, by early childhood programs, providers, and families, and increase the focus on early STEM learning within inservice and preservice professional development systems, including institutes of higher education programs.

“We are really excited to have the opportunity to lead this innovative work to support young children with disabilities to engage in STEM learning,” said Megan Vinh, principal investigator on the project and co-director of the center. “All children have the capacity to engage with and learn science, technology, engineering, and math. We know that introducing STEM into early learning curricula is critical. However, much of the recent focus and attention has been on typically developing preschoolers and school-aged children rather than infant and toddlers or on supports for young children with disabilities. The new center hopes to move the field beyond the status quo in early STEM learning for all children, especially children with disabilities.”

“We are delighted to have Doug Clements and Julie Sarama from the University of Denver collaborate with us on this Center,” said FPG’s Chih-Ing Lim, co-director of the center. “Doug and Julie are internationally renowned early math and STEM experts and we are really thrilled to have the opportunity to work together with them to ensure young children with disabilities can participate and benefit from high quality STEM teaching and learning in their home and across their communities.”

Besides DU, the Center will consist of highly experienced and capable national leaders, including: Tracey West, advanced technical assistance specialist, Janice Anderson, from the UNC School of Education, and Philippa Campbell from the Public Health Management Corporation. The center also will bring together consultants and advisors that include families of children with disabilities, and who represent different disciplines, organizations, industry, institutions, and sectors.