Building Budding Scientists

All children are natural scientists. They ask questions, experiment and design through the course of everyday explorations. The teachers and staff at IUPUI’s Center for Young Children have encouraged this natural scientific curiosity with their STEM preschool program, which is geared toward kids ages 4 to 5. The Center for Young Children STEM program focuses on teaching science, technology, engineering and math to preschoolers in a way that young children learn best: through play.  

“We use a simplified formula for the scientific method and the engineering design process, which children naturally use in their play,” says Jennifer Bohannan, multiage lead teacher at IUPUI’s Center for Young Children. “The teachers build awareness of the process by using appropriate terms and guided support.”  

For instance, if a child is interested in building a tower or bridge, they naturally gravitate to building blocks. The teachers then support the child’s efforts by observing and asking about their ideas. What materials did they choose and why did they choose them? Does it “do” what they designed it to do? Would they build it differently next time? It’s these kinds of questions that encourage kids to take their play to the next level. 

“It is our job to help them recognize that what they are doing is science, engineering and math by providing vocabulary, tools and processes for exploring,” says Vikki Tucher, multiage lead teacher at IUPUI’s Center for Young Children. 

The Center for Young Children STEM preschool program provides a setting in which children can wonder, solve, learn and grow. Children can explore many different scientific topics, including the human body, astronomy and simple machines. Kids learn in both small-group and large-group settings, and the curriculum follows Indiana Early Learning Foundations standards. 

Free-choice play and daily outdoor play are also built into the school day, giving preschoolers a well-rounded, holistic learning experience. “All scientists need to read, write, tinker and document learning,” Tucher says. “Therefore, art, reading, writing and play time is naturally included throughout the day.” 

To learn more about IUPUI’s Center for Young Children and the STEM preschool program, visit 


Fast Facts About IUPUI’s Center for Young Children   

  • The CYC STEM preschool program is for kids ages 4 and 5, but CYC offers full-day care for kids 6 weeks old through 5 years old. 
  • Monthly field trips are offered year-round, including summer splash days, walks around the IUPUI campus and swim lessons at the IU Natatorium. 
  • Classes for ages 3 to 5 are multiage, which means that kids can spend more than one year with the same teacher. 
  •  Thirty-five percent of the CYC’s full-time teaching staff have a Master’s degree or are currently completing a Master’s degree. 

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