The continuation of funding and programs to emphasize science exploration in preschool education has stretched beyond eastern North Carolina and into other parts of the state as planned, including a recent professional development session in Raleigh prominently featuring East Carolina University faculty members Drs. Archana (Anu) V. Hegde and Tammy Lee as grant leaders.
Hegde (human development and family science) and Lee (science education) are co-investigators on the “More PEAS Please” grant from a $1.32 million Science Education Partnership Award funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, with Dr. Virginia C. Stage (formerly of ECU and now at North Carolina State University, NC State Extension) as principal investigator. Implementation has focused on introducing STEM education in 4-year-old classrooms within Head Start and NC Pre-K settings.
Dr. Anu Hegde leads a presentation.
The latest professional development event was a chance for various project stakeholders to understand the expectations and execution of various activities linked to the PEAS (Preschool Education in Applied Sciences) grant and the continuous support provided to teachers during this time.
“Professional development is an ongoing process, and this is the beginning,” Hegde said. “This meeting is a good start. We meet all stakeholders face-to-face, for the very first time, as a team. Part of this grant requires teachers to form their own PEAS learning communities, or PLCs. I am introducing this concept to all teachers after a series of other planned and hands-on activities.”
Formulating goals, engaging in reflection sessions and implementing food-based learning activities are all examples of events teachers will be engaging in during the implementation phase of this grant. The PEAS teaching guidebook, PEAS learning communities guidebook, online learning modules and support provided on ground will lend support to teachers as they implement PEAS within their classrooms.
Hegde and Lee are members of a statewide team that includes representatives from ECU, N.C. State, the University of North Carolina Greensboro and North Carolina A&T State University. They each bring their own unique expertise and life experiences to this grant, according to Hegde.
“It’s an eclectic team,” Hegde said. “Dr. Stage is a nutritionist, by trade. I am a teacher educator. Dr. Tammy Lee is a science educator in elementary education. Dr. Lucía Mendez from UNCG actually is a speech pathologist. She developed a tool on science to measure young children’s knowledge on this subject. Science talk is an important practice emphasized within PEAS. Dr. Valerie McMillan from N.C. A&T lends a diverse early childhood perspective, while Dr. Suzie Goodell, a nutritionist by profession, is both a content and qualitative research expert from N.C. State. She has continuously provided strong training on research to our team members.
That is how this eclectic team works. I am involved in the different components of the grant and its execution. However, my primary responsibility is to prepare teacher leaders to execute their PLCs in a meaningful fashion.”
As highlighted in a previous announcement about this funding, Stage said resources help to promote school readiness for children under 5 years old.
“Our team understands the important relationship between health and long-term academic achievement,” Stage said. “So, has a unique focus on integrative education, working to help children develop cognitive and language skills, while also working to improve their dietary quality. In line with the mission of Head Start, our goal is to help prepare children for school and leading a healthy life, so they truly have a head start in kindergarten and beyond.”