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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Manos pequeñas, ideas grandes: A bilingual discovery center program

My amazing colleagues at the Tates Creek Branch library have been doing a series of programs called "Little Hands, Big Ideas" for a while now.  Last year I observed one, and got inspired to try a bilingual version here at the Village Branch.  Today was our first program, and it was really fun!

The program works like this: various activity stations are set up using a certain theme, and the parent/caregiver and child move from activity to activity.  Through this interactive play, the child is building early literacy, science and math concepts.  There is a lot of prep to setup the program, but it is worth it to see child and parent interacting together and having fun while they build important Kindergarten Readiness skills.

Our theme for today's program was Grocery Store / El supermercado.  We started off with a book and a story: Susan Middleton Elya's Bebé Goes Shopping, which introduces Spanish vocabulary through rhyming English text, and "Chocolate," one of our favorite phonological awareness building rhymes.  Then it was off to explore at the five stations.

Station 1:  Shopping Baskets / Cestas de compras
Children counted the items in two shopping baskets and compared which one had more items.  They then created patterns with the groceries and lined the various items up by size.  This helped them practice counting up to 20, comparing objects of different sizes and constructing simple patterns. 

Station 2:  Shopping Cart / Carrito de compras
Kids estimated how many objects they could fit into the shopping cart and then experimented by placing object in the cart.  They did the same activity again, estimating how many small items would fit into the cart and then how many large items would fit.  This also practiced counting and size comparisons, as well as making and testing hypotheses.

Station 3:  Food Sort / Tipos de alimentos
Kids sorted various types of foods into the appropriate categories based on the USDA food pyramid.  This helped children practice sorting skills.
Station 4:  Let's Go Shopping / Vamos de compras
This was a very fun activity.  Kids could use shopping baskets and mini shopping carts to search for the groceries on their list, while they talked with their parent or cargiver about what they were purchasing and what they would use it for.  This activity helped build early literacy skills such as vocabulary and narrative skills by sparking parent and child conversation.  Plus, pushing around the mini cart was a lot of fun!

Station 5:  Price Matching / Emparejamiento de precios
Lots of products and prices were spread out for kids to match the prices to the correct items.  The best part?  They could then enter the prices into a REAL cash register.  It even beeped and opened to reveal play money!  This was an opportunity to identify various numbers and to compare numbers of different sizes. 

This style of program is a great way to share with parents the types of early skills their children need to know to be ready for school success, and to share fun ways of practicing those skills which they can expand out at home or in other locations.  All of the files used in this program are available online here at Google Docs.  Do you do any kind of discovery center programming?  How do you make it accessible for everyone in your community?