WVU Extension and partners lead national Leap into Science program

MORGANTOWN — WVU Extension Service is partnering with the Green Bank Observatory, Pocahontas County Libraries and the Morgantown Public Library System to develop and guide the Leap into Science program in West Virginia through 2021.

The program’s aim is to combine literacy with open-ended science activities for children ages 3 to 10 through workshops that encourage youths to think like scientists. Concepts, such as balance, wind and air, magnets, sound and light and shadows, will be explored and integrated in to hands-on workshops for children and their families.

Program leaders are developing a train-the-trainer program that will be delivered to roughly 60 informal educators each year who can take the program to all of West Virginia’s 55 counties. From there, the next step is recruiting and training educators across the state.

With roots in every county, the WVU Extension Service hopes to help the program recruit a diverse crowd of community educators. Mollie Toppe, WVU Extension Service 4-H agent in Wetzel County, is serving on the West Virginia Leap into Science leadership team, and touted the program as a different way for kids to build their overall knowledge about science.

“This program is a bit different than other STEM programs as it incorporates those concepts into children’s picture books and invites them to use their natural curiosity about what’s happening to the characters in the story to correlate to real-life concepts,” she said. “This isn’t classroom-based learning. It can take place in community centers, libraries, after-school programs and more; that makes the program really practical and flexible for many communities in West Virginia.”

Educators who join the West Virginia Leap into Science network will receive free professional development and training in leading the workshops, free curricula, Leap into Science material kits and ongoing support.

The Leap into Science initiative is led by The Franklin Institute , the National Girls Collaborative Project and the Institute for Learning Innovation, with support from the National Science Foundation.

The WVU Extension Service provides educational opportunities to local communities through offices in all 55 West Virginia counties. WVU Extension Service’s programs are accomplished in partnership with individuals, families, businesses, civic groups and governmental organizations statewide and throughout the nation.

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