Woodbridge STEM Pre School Academy Taking Off
– October 31, 2013 11:30 am
Potomac Local Leaders
How old were you when you committed to memory the periodic table of elements? How about when you learned of the application of centripetal force on roller coasters? What age were you when you programmed your first robot to project a Nerf ball 10 feet in the air?
Well if Seidah Ashshaheed has anything to do with it, children in Prince William County will know the answers of those questions before they learn how to walk.
Living in Northern Virginia, the technology sector continues to grow with a increased demand for a highly skilled workforce in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Creator and owner of STEM Tot Academy Seidah Ashshaheed, believes that our nations growth and success starts in preschool.
Vickers: STEM for preschoolers is an interesting concept why have you selected to start a stem Academy for such a young age and here in Prince William County.
Ashshaheed: About a year ago I started searching for a preschool that had a strong science, technology, engineering, and math component for my three year old niece. Like many children her age, she displayed strong natural inquiry skills. As a middle school principal I have been equipped to design mini lessons for her that entail measuring earthworms, observing cicadas, and creating volcanoes.
For the past two summers, experimenting has been paired with a related STEM field trip. Her attention to details and recall is remarkable, again like many children her age. I realized that everything I needed in a preschool was at home. Having Pre-K-12 experience as an educator allowed me to develop a STEM curriculum and write my first children’s book, ABC’s STEM and Me: An Alphabet Book on Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, which will be available mid-October.
I must thank Kayla Seabridge, my illustrator for the beautiful images of children depicted in various STEM careers. As a Prince William County resident and former Prince William County educator, I wanted to develop a business and provide a quality preschool program in my community.
Vickers: After reading through your curriculum for your Academy, I’m confident that families will line up to be a part of your program. What was the inspiration and credentialing involved in the creation of your STEM Tot curriculum?
Ashshaheed: Again, my niece is my main inspiration for developing STEM Tot Academy and its resources. I must also give credit to the College of William and Mary and the National Defense Education Program’s STEM Education Alliance: Virginia Demonstration Project.
While serving as a middle school principal in King George, Va., I worked closely with Dr. Hardinge of the College of William and Mary and a team of wonderful individuals with STEM related careers, to infuse STEM into the curriculum at my school, thanks to a grant.
Not only did we see the immediate impact that providing project-based experiences in classrooms often renders, we saw students who were often turned off by science and math reinvigorated. In 2010 research conducted by Dr. Valentine out of the University of Missouri, an alarming truth about schools was revealed.
As students advance through schools, the level of engagement, decreases. Providing hands on opportunities for youth must be consistent from preschool through grade 12. As educators we are famous for targeting a group at a time.
My goal, is to ultimately, continue to add a grade, through 8th grade, challenging youth with a rigorous STEM based curriculum, that encompasses, field experiences, guest speakers, and much more. This is what we are doing with our preschool/child day center now.
Vickers: Where do you see youth that graduate from STEM Tots 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years from now?
Ashshaheed: First and foremost, I want students to leave our program with a firm literacy foundation, who are also innovative thinkers, problem-solvers, and who are versatile enough to enter any profession they choose and contribute positively.
A sound STEM curriculum in the early years assists with the development of critical thinking skills. Our motto at the Academy, is OBSERVE, THINK, CREATE. Yes, students will still receive the early years curriculum, which includes science and math.
What we are doing is providing the experience in 3D, so that our students can be exposed enough to express interest if they so desire in STEM careers later on in life.
Vickers: A combination of mixed programming allows families of various needs to benefit from a program like yours. Besides full day preschool, what other programs will you be offering year round?
Ashshaheed: I am so thrilled that our program will provide before and after care for school age children ages 5-12, with transportation capabilities. The after school program will also be a STEM enriched program.
The academy will also provide Camp STEM-u-lation for children in the community, ages 5-12, which will include thematic weeks, guest speakers in various STEM careers, and a plethora of STEM related field trips. STEM Tot Academy, will also provide weekend workshops for children ages 5-12 for those students interested in developing websites, robotics, coding, and more.
Vickers: Our Tech sector is such a large industry in Northern Virginia , are you working with any other agencies to align with other regional STEM collaborations nationally or regionally?
Ashshaheed: I am having various discussions with a few agencies right now. The STEM alphabet book has been most interesting. I created the book for my niece, but also to help fund the various daily labs taking place in the program and the on-going PD for my staff. Vetting the book through various mediums to include kindergarten and first grade teachers, has rendered much discussion regarding the lack of resources and research out there for young children as it relates to STEM. My mission is to help close that gap.
Potomac Local Leaders series are the stories and interviews with the men, women and youth that through their commitment to community change the world each day. Glenn Vickers is an experienced business professional enhancing philanthropic resource development, corporate citizenship programming and nonprofit business operations; Vickers enjoys working with government, private and nonprofit organizations for social change #GOVickers