The Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center’s Family Workshops are going virtual this fall. While we may not be together in person, we will continue to build family communities via online workshop series. Our workshops combine the wonders of the Smithsonian online collection, early childhood best practice, and personal connections to foster children’s learning. We are excited to see you all again!
Current Class Offerings
Private Classes: Want to schedule a class or a session of classes for your family and family friends? Email Brooke Shoemaker at ShoemakerB@si.edu for more information and availability.
*Please note, that while we’re not currently offering virtual classes for the 0-3 age group, we will be offering parenting classes that will provide ideas and techniques to engage even the very young in art and objects.
Our Guiding Principles
What We Believe
- that children are individuals who develop and learn differently. If you let them choose what speaks to them, you will set them up for a lifetime love of learning.
- that caregiving is a hard job and is not to be judged.
- that young children are developing their ability to sit, listen, cooperate, and control their emotions. As adults, is it important to remember that this is hard work and we should try to balance our expectations with a child’s individual progression.
- that our programs are for fun and family.
- that playing is learning.
- in playing with children, being silly, singing, having fun, and getting dirty.
- in asking open-ended questions and wondering out loud, even with infants and toddlers.
- in taking time to stop, look carefully, and describe the objects we encounter in the classroom, community, and in the museums.
- in encouraging children to try new skills and in not being afraid to fail.
- in a community of learners. Learning truly begins at birth and should continue into adulthood.
- that having a calm body and adult hand will keep us and the objects we visit safe, but this will not preclude us from looking, talking, singing, and playing during our museum visits.
How We Teach
Not all children will be interested in ALL of our teaching methods so we use a variety of techniques to engage them. Follow your child’s lead and be flexible; there is no one way to learn.
The world is our classroom and we not only use museums, but parks, stores, libraries, and beyond.
Objects help engage the senses and provide a concrete and memorable learning experience. They are more powerful than words and pictures alone and children are more likely to remember and connect with them.
Observation encourage minds to focus, eyes to look closely, and brains to develop a deeper understanding. We often start lessons by asking, “What do you see?”
Questions require children to be active participants in the learning process and because of this, inquiry is more powerful than simply sharing information. We also ask questions as a way to create dialog and cultivate flexible thinking. Thinking out loud helps us see how others are thinking and therefore, expand our own thinking.
Posing questions to children who are preverbal is still important. Look for nonverbal cues such as pointing, looking, and giggling and respond to them.
Experimentation is a process by which children explore a topic. Children experiment as a way of understanding cause and effect relationships or as a way to solve problems. Anything a child does more than once can be considered an experiment. We will ask “What would happen if …” as a way to harness a learner’s natural desire to experiment.
Exploration allows children to discover and learn about a topic in a variety of ways.
Math concepts are interwoven into lessons. Examples you might observe are: counting, representing quantities, noticing differences in quantities, observing patterns, and categorizing.
Fine motor activities allow children to use the small muscles in their hands to help them learn how to do things like dress independently, and write.
Gross motor activities engage a child’s large muscles, for example running, jumping, and climbing. Movement helps children learn what their bodies are capable of, as well as provide necessary and fun outlets for physical movement.
Our art activities focus on the process, rather than the outcome. Participating in process-based art encourages creativity and problem solving and develops fine motor skills.
Sensory activities are those that stimulate a child’s senses. Young children have a more meaningful learning experience when their senses are engaged.
Play can be defined in many ways, but typically involves some element of imagination. Play helps children explore roles, ideas, and situations, and often builds social skills as they navigate play with peers or adults.
Research has proven the importance of reading with young children, and that positive experiences with books help create a love of reading.
Singing is important tool with young children, science has proven that music helps children better remember concepts and vocabulary. It also helps children transition from one activity to another.