'Next generation' Oviedo preschool takes new approach to teaching

Little Explorers Academy embraces technology to teach science, engineering, arts, math

OVIEDO, Fla. – Educators are calling Little Explorers Academy in Oviedo a next-generation preschool.

The school is the first in Central Florida to embrace STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum for its preschool students.

Chief Learning Officer Marnie Forestieri said the concept began with the assembly of a task force including university professors, entrepreneurs, technology experts and community leaders. 

"I think we're unique. I think we're one of the first schools in the nation to do this," Forestieri said. "We believe that young children are natural scientists, they have it in them. They're engineers."

A recent tour of the campus in Oviedo reveals kids having fun, just as you'd expect. The difference is the way they're using technology to promote creative exploration. 

Deirdre Englehart, an associate lecturer at UCF, is part of a group of educators from UCF helping to develop the school's curriculum. She calls it the "Investigation Model," using technology as a tool for further exploration.

"The technology gives children at this age, that typically don't have the ability to write and express their ideas in a written format, an avenue for them to really express their ideas" Englehart said. "They're normally not able to do that in a regular classroom setting at this age."

Each classroom is named for a famous explorer or scientist such as Einstein or Galileo.

"It all starts in the classroom," Forestieri said. "The lesson plan fuels the element of play."

Little Explorers Academy embraces the arts as well, with music and art appreciation.

"Everything in the school is integrated; that means everything they learn in music or in the arts program or outdoors or even in the STEM classes, everything is interconnected."

The Geo Motion Lab is a studio where students can take part in music exploration, math yoga lessons and even on-camera weather reports using green-screen technology.

In the L'Atelier studio students learn the basics of animation, programming and robotics.

Forestieri said she's already seeing a difference in how the kids are responding.

"We have seen an increase in all the data that we were hoping to get," Forestieri said. "Their vocabulary skills are just amazing, the terminology they use at this age, the capacity for critical thinking, it's amazing. They come up with solutions that they see in the community and they connect it to the school."

About the Author:

Paul Giorgio

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.

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