Young children and scientists have something in common: They both make discoveries about the world around them by asking "Why?" The Vermont Center for the Book's Mother Goose Programs is helping parents, caregivers and librarians foster that natural curiosity in preschoolers by introducing science through great children's literature. The program is called Mother Goose Asks "Why?" and has made its debut in the Rutland area.
Last week, folks who work with young children in 20 towns across Vermont gathered in Chester for a daylong workshop given by Vermont Center for the Book Executive Director Sally Anderson. Among them were Maureen Young and Julie Mazzariello, of Rutland County Head Start; Nan Josephson and Madeline Denis, of Rutland County Parent Child Center; and Jan Krantz and Julia Chamberlain, of Rutland South West Supervisory Union.
Each participant received a complete set of quality picture books, an activity guide, and hands-on materials to bring the program to their community. The organizations represented will each receive an additional ten sets of books and materials to share with the families they serve.
Workshop participants learned how to present the program to parents back home by doing some of the activities themselves. After looking over Steve Jenkins' and Robin Page's What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? the group practiced grouping and sorting animals by different attributes, using the kit's animal cards. Making patterns and sorting are two of the major themes in the "Same and Different" portion of the program.
"Recognizing same and different is a basic life skill," Anderson told the group of 45 participants. She noted people sort things every day, from the laundry to the weekly groceries. Anderson added, "Sorting is the basis for all scientific thinking."
Sorting is also a skill required by Vermont's Early Learning Standards. Anderson noted all the Mother Gooses Programs are standards-based, and intended to help children learn the skills they will need to succeed in school.
In the "Making it Work" unit, workshop participants rolled up their sleeves and played in the water. They made aluminum foil boats and experimented with sinking and floating objects in activities designed to drive home the science concepts introduced in Pamela Allen's "Who Sank the Boat?"
"Learning is about processing what you've just experienced," Anderson explained. She elaborated saying it's not enough for children to have an educational experience. For real learning to occur they must have to opportunity to talk about that experience.
The final unit in the Mother Goose Asks "Why?" program focuses on "Growing and Changing." Hands-on activities for this unit include sprouting a bean plant and watching a tree to see how it changes over time.
"Kids are interested in growing and changing because they are growing and changing and the world around them is growing and changing," said Anderson. "Everything alive grows and changes and when you grow, you change."
At the Mother Goose Asks "Why?" workshop, participants were afforded the opportunity to grow professionally, as they learned the skills needed to help bring the program to families in their own community.
"I look forward to working with our families using the books, the activities, as well as having conversations with them about how to use them with their children," one program participant commented. "Our parents will love this!"
The workshop was provided by Vermont Center for the Book's Mother Goose Programs, funded in part by the A.D. Henderson Foundation. The kits provided in conjunction with the program include the picture books Albert's Alphabet by Leslie Tryon; What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins; Jody's Beans by Malachy Doyle; and Now I'm Big by Margaret Miller. Kits also include a Mother Goose Asks "Why?" Family Activity Guide, a set of science bookmarks (with information and booklists on each, along with the process skills of science), a set of foam shapes for making patters, a packet of seeds, a magnifying lens and a collection of small toys and other items called the "Sink & Float Collection" for sorting and floating experiments.
For more information, or to find out how to bring Mother Goose Asks "Why?" to your community, see www.mothergooseprograms.org or call the Vermont Center for the Book at 875-2790.