Steamboat preschool aces accreditation scores |

Steamboat preschool aces accreditation scores

Spatial math comes easily to 4-year-olds at Discovery Learning Center

Andrew Foley shows his Lego truck to Kaeden Campbell, left, while Jackson Helberg ponders his next move at Discovery Learning Center in Steamboat Springs.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 4-year-old boys who spent a part of their Wednesday morning at Discovery Learning Center this week building what looked like the beginnings of a house and garage for their Lego truck likely had no idea they were actually studying spacial mathematics.

And that's exactly how Discovery's Executive Director Tami Havener and her teaching staff of 11 teachers like it.

"Children here have an opportunity to pursue their own learning," Havener explained. "The boys were learning about geometry, how those pieces fit together and how right angles work in their hands, as opposed to sitting at a desk and learning about that in second grade. They're learning about those concepts in a meaningful way for them, that will carry them forward when they get into school."

But the spacial math lesson isn't left to chance. Teachers at Discovery are encouraged to subtly guide the youngsters using a technique known to educators as "scaffolding."

In the case of the boys working on their Lego project, it would be typical for a teacher at Discovery to casually walk by and say something to the students like, "Look at that platform, it's parallel to the outside of the garage."

"After a few repetitions, they'll recognize that it's parallel and then, the next time, (the students) might deliberately make something parallel. And they have that concept," Havener said.

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It is thanks, in part, to subtle teaching methods like this that Discovery Learning Center received special recognition this month from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The school on Village Drive near the base of Steamboat Ski Area achieved a perfect score on its accreditation report.

Discovery has been accredited since 1990, something that requires it to achieve scores of 80 percent or higher in each of 10 standards, of which curriculum is just one.

But hitting the 100 percent mark is something else. Among the 10 standards, there are 400 criteria to be met. And the staff at Discovery has gradually improved its scores over time.

"This was a first for us," Havener said. "It was really rewarding to get that perfect score. In four out of 10 standards, we actually got 100 percent-plus scores. It's pretty unheard of."

However, for Discovery Learning Center, the rigorous accreditation process it undergoes every three to five years is really about having a framework for measuring consistent improvement in the delivery of early childhood education.

Of course, the 4-year-olds with the Legos set just want to have a blast studying spacial math.

"You want them to think school is so exciting and fun, they can't wait to go to school every day for the rest of their lives," Havener said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

About Discovery Learning Center

•Discovery learning Center has been caring for, and educating  Routt County’s preschoolers since 1984

• Parents of Discovery students are accustomed to their youngsters coming home from school and making remarks like, “That Leonardo da Vinci, he was a genius!,” or, “What does a crabcake look like?

•Discovery enrolls about 90 children each year

•Last year it provided more than $118,000 in scholarships, with the funds coming from a variety of sources including the State of Colorado and individual donors

•This school year, about 10 percent of the students are technically deemed homeless by federal standards. They may be living in a temporary home, or sharing a home with another household.