Nourish Young Minds

Investing in Early Childhood Learning

Nourish Young Minds

Investing in Early Childhood Learning

Nourish Young Minds

Investing in Early Childhood Learning

Nourish Young Minds

Investing in Early Childhood Learning

Nourish Young Minds

Investing in Early Childhood Learning

Nourish Young Minds

Investing in Early Childhood Learning

Investing in Early Childhood Learning


New research is giving us new insight into young children's scientific and mathematical reasoning. At NYSCI, we translate that knowledge into innovative programs and coaching for families and early childhood educators.




Little Makers

The Little Makers program is weekly drop-in workshops that utilize making projects to encourage the whole family to engage in hands-on making opportunities. Little Makers responds to the distinctive need for children to learn through concrete interactions—touching, exploring, and manipulating. When children are able to find new uses for everyday materials, they develop materials literacy, a potent skill that enables children to see possibilities in the world around them. These workshops also serve as an important testing ground for new experiences that can be used to inform the work NYSCI is doing with early childhood educators from our local communities. Since the program is rooted in the community, it also positions NYSCI as a partner and safe space where new and effective approaches to learning can empower local families. Programs like Little Makers advance creative thinking through imaginative, playful experiences that enliven the senses, spark curiosity, and nurture children’s natural inclinations to design, make, and play. Our model aims to activate parents as playmates and first science teachers as well as provide tools for parents that help them see and appreciate their children’s play as a valuable part of the learning ecology. LEARN MORE

Picture Dots

Educators and researchers at SciPlay worked to learn more about how technology can facilitate playful adult-child engagement and learning, in informal settings by drawing on a partnership with the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose (CDM). This 18-month research project, funded by The Heising-Simons Foundation, was aimed at adopting a playful approach to addressing underrepresented and underserved families’ access to quality early science, mathematics, and literacy learning through technology and interactive support materials. At the center of the project was Picture Dots, an iOS app designed to assist young children and their grownups in having conversations about what they notice in the world. Picture Dots allows families to take pictures and label them with four different colors of dots that can be assigned music, sound, or text. The dots can also be used for color matching, counting, categorizing objects, making patterns, remembering an event, decorating a photo, or any other use children dream up.

The development of Picture Dots was informed by NYSCI’s Design, Make, Play approach and is the first early childhood app NYSCI has released, complementing its five other Noticing Tools. The project informed the development of instructional materials for use with Picture Dots, including parent-child storybook guides and an educator guide. NYSCI and the CDM worked collaboratively to hold a total of 50 sessions implementing Picture Dots since the beginning of the project and have served a total of 505 children from underserved and underrepresented communities over the course of the project.

Design, Make, Play; An Integrated Approach to STEM and Literacy Learning

In partnership with three local elementary schools in the neighborhood of Corona, Queens, and researchers working in the area of mathematics and literacy learning, NYSCI successfully produced a collection of curriculum resources, professional development support and student-centered projects that enable pre-K through second-grade teachers to effectively implement STEM and literacy activities in their classrooms. During the pilot phase, NYSCI educators provided professional development support and in-classroom coaching to support teachers with implementing STEM and literacy activities in their classrooms. NYSCI served a cohort of 13 classroom teachers and six science cluster teachers, reaching approximately 275 of their students. The participating teachers provided valuable feedback, including their observation that the Design, Make, Play approach engages reticent learners and lower performing students. Teachers also demonstrated their interest in exploring additional facilitation methods, particularly on how to keep the learning open-ended and student-centered.

  • CONTACT: Delia Meza
  • TEAM: Kate Donnelly
  • FUNDERS: 100k in 10

Early Childhood Professional Development

Remedying the lack of access to high-quality STEM instruction and resources in underserved communities in New York City is key to ensuring that the next generation is prepared and have access to college and future employment opportunities. The earlier we reach young people in their education, the more we can impact their later success. NYSCI will be working collaboratively with school principals and teachers from three schools in Richmond County to:

  1. assess the needs of the schools’ pre-K programs and their 800 families with young children;
  2. develop and implement a new series of pre-K professional development programs that result in meaningful STEM teaching and learning;
  3. design a new series of early childhood professional development programming that would be available to pre-K centers across the borough, and potentially reach thousands of more students citywide.

The project will engage young children in STEM activities resulting in early motivation, engagement, knowledge and foundational skills in STEM. It will also provide opportunities for teachers to gain specific strategies and lessons that will enable them to more effectively incorporate STEM programming into the early childhood classroom.

  • CONTACT: Delia Meza
  • TEAM: Kate Donnelly
  • FUNDERS: Richmond County

Autism Access Project

In 2012, with the generous support of the Jesse and Joan Kupferberg Family Foundation, NYSCI initiated the Autism Access Project. NYSCI’s Design, Make, Play (DMP) philosophy serves as the underpinning for our approach to engaging families with young children on the spectrum in STEM learning. The DMP approach capitalizes on the deep-seated interests of children on the spectrum and provides rich museum experiences that invite families to discover the wonder and joy of science learning together. NYSCI’s programs serve as a learning opportunity for these children; as a safe space where parents can engage with other parents facing similar challenges and build community, and an opportunity for typically-developing siblings to interact with each other. Since launching the program, NYSCI has served 752 children and 550 families. Over the next three years, NYSCI proposes to serve approximately 600 children on the spectrum. Additionally, NYSCI has made its programming, and overall museum experience, more sensitive to the learning styles of young children on the spectrum through fostering a museum environment that is welcoming and accessible, ongoing ASD sensitivity and facilitation training of staff, and DMP family-centered programming. NYSCI also plans to continue partnerships with the Queens Museum, INCLUDEnyc, and NYC Parks to bring a series of inclusive sensory play experiences to families at the Playground for All Children in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Big Data/Little Kids

This project employs a design, make, play framework to create data modelling learning experiences for young children. The project will develop and test a curriculum for a workshop series for 5-8-year-old children and their caregivers, to engage them in a playful exploration of data modelling. Children will engage in data collection, representation and analysis, drawing their own experiences in the museum. During the 2016-17 school year, the project team has developed and piloted the workshop curriculum and a set of observational instruments. During the 2017-18 school year, we will implement a revised version of the workshop series, and examine whether and how it engages families with the core concepts the workshop is designed to explore. The project is grounded in a theoretical framework for young children’s learning that focuses on playful exploration, design, and building on children’s own experiences and questions. The research effort will draw on detailed analysis of caregiver-child-artifact interactions and will seek to identify periods of sustained engagement and exploration. Our goal is to understand what kinds of prompts, materials and scaffolding are most useful for supporting interactions between caregivers and children that allow them to engage directly with key ideas about what counts as data, how it can be represented, and how it can be interpreted to inform choices and actions.

Discover NYSCI's Early Childhood Events

early childhood
November 19 • 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
It’s harvest time! Smash and stir fruits into a yummy batch of homemade jam.
early childhood
November 26 • 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Design and create a delicious mini gingerbread house.
early childhood
December 17 • 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Design and create a delicious mini gingerbread house.