Tag Archives: DC Classes for Toddlers

Programs for Little Learners at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

An SEEC Toddler Trailblazers workshop

[Note: This is a Sponsored Guest Post contributed by Cynthia Raso, Director of the Office of Engagement at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC).]

People are often surprised to learn that there’s a school at the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center is a small school for infants through Kindergartners that opened its doors over 30 years ago. We acknowledge that children of all ages are capable learners, and we operate from the core belief that children benefit from learning in museums.

Over the years, we have developed a unique approach to learning beyond the classroom. Today, community is at the heart of what we do. We believe that by learning in the community children can better understand concepts and experience more of the world. We also believe that by supporting a community of families, we can create a framework that will enhance a child’s overall growth and development.

CREATING COMMUNITY
Life is hectic, so we invite families to slow down when they enter our classrooms. We begin most of our classes by playing and we encourage our caretakers to interact with the children and adults in the room. We find that this period can be meaningful time spent with your child as well as a chance to socialize and meet other families. The best part of our play is that the SEEC team does all the clean-up — so go ahead, get messy, and enjoy!

Our community is a judgment free zone. We do our best to create an environment in which parents don’t feel pressured to have their kids perform or act in a certain way. If there is one thing we understand it’s that young children have a mind of their own and develop at their own pace. We want caregivers to feel good about their parenting even if their child is having an “off” day.

Preschool Pioneers on a visit to the Hirshhorn

THE WHOLE CHILD
To use an education phrase, we support the whole child. Our goal is to encourage the cognitive, physical, and emotional development of young children. Of course, we want our students to come away with new knowledge after a lesson, but our programs go beyond that. The play and activities that we facilitate help children practice everything from problem-solving to learning how to move their bodies. Our interactive group activities encourage children to think critically, listen to others, and make careful observations. Our curricula and materials celebrate children of all backgrounds, and we think carefully about diversity and inclusion.

LOVE OF LEARNING
Too often these days, young children are faced with learning environments that don’t reflect their developmental needs. We, however, offer a program that acknowledges a child’s need to move, explore, and investigate. We are not here to provide answers, but rather to suggest a pathway to the answer. We see this as a journey for the child and adult, and we believe that by engaging them in the content in fun and meaningful ways, children will continue to return to museums and learning.

An Artful Afternoon with SEEC

SEEC TODAY
SEEC currently offers a host of options for families, including our full-time school for infants through kindergartners. Though enrollment in the younger years is limited due to space, we encourage you to look at our preschool and kindergarten options where space is often available. In addition to our full-time school, we offer the following weekend family programs for infants – 3rd grade and a part-time program for caregivers and children aged 18 – 36 months:

Visit the SEEC website to learn more about their programs. And if you are interested in enrollment in preschool and kindergarten, spaces are currently available in both programs for 2018-2019. The application deadline for 2019 -2020 school year is March 1, 2019.

This post is sponsored by Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under 2018, 2019, Babies, Class, DC, Educational, Museums, Preschoolers, Schools, Sponsored Post, Toddlers, Weekdays, Weekend

Family Programs at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

An infant class recreates a landscape at the National Gallery of Art during a class on water

An infant class recreates a landscape at the National Gallery of Art during a class on water


[Note: This is a sponsored post contributed by Cynthia Raso of SEEC.]


Nestled inside the National Museum of Natural History and American History is a little known secret — the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), a school serving infants through kindergartners. Nearly 30 years ago, our founding director recognized the profound importance of a child’s early years and the benefits of learning in museums and the community. Today, it has evolved into a school that provides educational opportunities for children and adults, integrating innovative learning methods tailored to each learner.

“How do I enroll?” is a question staff hears a lot. Parents are encouraged to peruse the many options available. Responding to the high demand after years of limited space, SEEC recently began offering more and more classes beyond its full-time school. We now have weekend programs for children up to 3rd grade and a part-time program for families with children aged 18 – 24 months, the Smithsonian Early Explorers.

While our family workshop team is committed to high standards, they also know that these programs are about family, spending time together, and having fun. When you first arrive at a workshop, the classroom is set-up with several play options — play is learning for young children, and this free time is also a great opportunity for families to get to know each other. For the first half hour, participants move about the room while the children choose what most interests them. Each activity is carefully selected to introduce a concept and support developmental growth. Descriptive signs guide parents in how to encourage and engage with their child, ideas we hope they can take home and integrate into their daily routine.

A sensory table for infants during a recent class on birds

A sensory table for infants during a recent class on birds

Toddler practices fine motor skills while creating a pipe cleaner sculpture

Toddler practices fine motor skills while creating a pipe cleaner sculpture

After playing, we head into morning meeting. Different for each age group, they can include hands-on objects, experiments, interactive songs and books, and opportunities to wonder. From there, we often get together as a group for some art and a snack.

Two-year-olds imagine what it would be like to swing like monkeys from trees

Two-year-olds imagine what it would be like to swing like monkeys from trees

Toddlers get ready to see how powdered pigment can turn into paint using oil

Toddlers get ready to see how powdered pigment can turn into paint using oil

Next, we head out to a museum! These visits connect children to objects, literally bringing them to life. Often a combination of teacher-led and parent-led activities, SEEC educators introduce the subject using the same techniques as in morning meeting and encourage families to explore galleries together. Simple instructions help promote inquiry and observation in the galleries, a less-structured approach that helps keep young children engaged, bring families together, and give children autonomy in choosing in what interests them.

A simple basket plate helps connect this young child to the artwork while visiting the Renwick Gallery

A simple basket plate helps connect this young child to the artwork while visiting the Renwick Gallery

A mother and child stop at a painting before drawing at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

A mother and child stop at a painting before drawing at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

So many of our families have asked about programs for their elementary-aged children that we recently launched Artful Afternoons. One Sunday a month, SEEC’s art educator hosts an open studio featuring artful challenges around a central theme. This year we’ll be making Alexander Calder-inspired mobiles, exploring movement and food in art, and mixing in some theater, too! While these sessions don’t include a museum visit, each family is given a brochure outlining the activities and connecting them to objects at the Smithsonian and beyond. Parents enjoy the leisurely pace and are encouraged to bring siblings and make some art of their own.

Families make landscapes on sand paper with chalk and watercolors during a session on Impressionism

Families make landscapes on sand paper with chalk and watercolors during a session on Impressionism

Weekends are for family time and fun and SEEC staff really enjoy being able to share the Smithsonian collections with you. We hope that when you walk away from one of our classes, you and your child have learned something, had the chance to meet some great people, and enjoyed spending time with each other.

Come and join us sometime!
* Weekend Family Workshops: Children 4 months – 5 years and meet Saturday and Sunday mornings for 90 minutes
* Smithsonian Early Explorers: A 2 days/week program for caretakers and children aged 18 – 24 months on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 – 11:30am with a 12-week commitment. Fall trimester begins September 26 — two spaces are left
* Artful Afternoons: Elementary school-aged children meet most 3rd Sundays of the month 1 – 3pm
* Bring Your Own Baby: Beginning in January, a program for caretakers and their newborns
* SEEC Celebrations: Book a private event for your K – 3 grade child

A complete listing of events can be found here. You can also read a KFDC write-up about SEEC here.

Cynthia Raso is Assistant Director of the Center for Innovation in Early Learning at SEEC. Her interest in programming for young children in museums began almost a decade ago when her own children were small. She makes sure to find time to teach a class once a month — it is the best part of her job.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, however, I only promote programs, places, and events that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under Art, Class, DC, Educational, Indoor Play, Museums, Schools, Sponsored Post, Weekdays, Weekend

Museum-Based Learning at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

SEEC_lightbox

That first introduction to school for our children is important to us parents. We want their early associations with being part of a class in an educational environment to be good ones. We want our kids to be engaged, to feel inspired, to find learning fun.

The Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), a model lab school with a museum-based curriculum, understands that. In their words, “SEEC invites children to be extraordinary, to wonder and to explore the world around them. SEEC teaches children to search for knowledge rather than simply be fed information.”

I got to see this in action all for myself on a recent visit to observe the Smithsonian Early Explorers, one of their preschool groups. It started in Q?rius jr. at the National Museum of Natural History, where the class meets on Mondays and Wednesdays. (Already I have to note how great that is — “school” in the activity center in one of the coolest museum’s in the city!)

SEEC_discroom

There are currently two open spots in that class, and applications for the 2015-2016 school year will be accepted in late spring. But the SEEC also hosts Family Workshops on weekends, four consecutive Saturday sessions that meet for approximately two hours, the next series beginning January 31. They are structured just like the class I joined, and while it’s recommended that participants sign up for all four, they are offered individually as well.

SEEC_station

SEEC_shells

The sessions explore various concepts, and this particular one was “Under the Sea.” Stations were set up around the room with simple activities that related to the theme, so as the two-year-old children arrived, they had about 15 minutes to get hands-on with the subject. There were seashells to touch and trace, stamps with sea birds and creatures that corresponded with a book, a light box to examine transparencies of marine animals, a dress-up area with pirate and and other sea-themed outfits. The class is led by a teacher, who roamed the room and guided the kids through the projects, but parents and caregivers stay with their children and enjoy the experience with them.

SEEC_circle

After that initial introduction to the topic, the class met for Circle Time, where they did a familiar welcome song that gave each student a chance to stand up and dance. That was followed by a story and group activity, again associated with the theme. After that, we all grabbed our coats and got ready to head out. That’s right — the class doesn’t necessarily stay at Natural History every time; they sometimes venture to other museums on the Mall to tie in different kinds collections to the lessons. Even though we could have gone right downstairs to the Sant Ocean Hall for some straight-up sea exhibits, we went to the Hirshhorn to incorporate art, too.

SEEC_hirshhornstory

Once there, the teacher read a book in the lounge area, then we strolled through the main walkway to a couple of sculptures, where the kids “saw” sea creatures in the modern designs. The teacher also brought some visuals along to add to the experience (plus the hands-on opportunities were a good distraction in a no-touch museum).

SEEC_sculptures

SEEC_hirshornactivity

The Hirshhorn portion lasted about 45 minutes and took us to the end of the class. The entire session runs from 9:30-11:30am, so parents can take advantage of being on the Mall to do some more museum-hopping. Or, they can head home and anticipate another great outing at the next class.

To learn more about the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center and register for the Family Workshops, visit the website.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and I only promote events, activities, and programs that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under Class, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Museums, Preschoolers, Sponsored Post, Toddlers, Weekdays, Weekend