The mission of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County is to provide children, from birth to 5 years old, a high-quality, equitable and inclusive early learning experience to prepare them for success in school and life through the collaboration of families, educators and the community.
Recently, the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County created a free program that brings STEM to preschoolers. iSpy Tampa Bay has been brought to more than 100 classrooms so far, and it’s looking to add more. Schools in Valrico and Riverview are currently using the iSpy program.
“The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County created the program because state tests show only half of kids in Tampa Bay are ready for kindergarten,” said Alison Fraga, chief development officer for the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, “so thousands of kids are starting school each year without the basic skills they need to succeed. This STEM program is one way to fix that.”
The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, in partnership with ZooTampa, The Florida Aquarium and the Glazer Children’s Museum, strives to improve reading, science and mathematics literacies among preschool students ages 3-5 through play-based learning activities.
The iSpy Tampa Bay program provides the opportunity to engage children in science and nature play both in the classroom and at home. The program promotes natural curiosity, increases vocabulary and sparks imagination.
“Each child gets a backpack full of STEM learning tools like magnifying glasses and binoculars,” Fraga said. “Kids also get a free family membership to the Glazer Children’s Museum, The Florida Aquarium and ZooTampa. Plus, teachers get special training to use STEM to help kids learn the key skills they need like math, reading and vocabulary.”
Only half of Tampa Bay’s students are entering kindergarten with the skills needed to succeed in school, according to state testing. “iSpy Tampa Bay is aiming to reverse that trend by bringing STEM learning into child care centers and preschools by using fun play to teach real science, math and reading skills,” Fraga said.
If you would like to learn more about the programs offered by the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County or if you want to learn more about its iSpy Tampa Bay program, visit www.elchc.org.