This story originally appeared on the Auburn Chamber of Commerce website.
Alabama’s first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) preschool, Auburn Day School, is slated to open in early 2020.
The half-day preschool will focus on a concept-based, hands-on, active curriculum targeting children ages 12 months to 5 years. Additionally, the school will offer multiple STEM camps for children ages 3-6 years during holidays and over the summers. STEM education focuses on combining science, technology, engineering and math with real-world skills and tools to prepare children to think critically, solve problems, find and use evidence to make connections to the world around them and to create new things.
The school, founded by Katie Witthauer Murrah, will be the first of its kind in the state of Alabama.
“Preschool is the perfect time to cultivate a love of learning as students build their skills and confidence in STEM. We can’t wait to offer a unique and exceptional educational experience to children in the Auburn-Opelika area. Auburn Day School instruction will focus on progress and not mastery, as students are guided to observe, think critically, identify problems, make predictions, experiment and hone their problem-solving skills. We can’t wait to see the spark of joy as students learn and grow through daily hands-on explorations in STEM, arts, and language,” Murrah says.
Rather than themes, lessons within Auburn Day School will be taught through overarching concepts, which are ideas that can apply to anyone, at any time, with any background knowledge. The educational focus is on process rather than procedures.
“We want to help students learn to find the value in math and science early, so we can help set the foundation for a lifetime of STEM success,” Murrah said.
Classes are designed with children’s interests and readiness in mind, with overlapping age ranges, allowing parents to select the class they think will be the best fit for their child. In addition to hands-on active STEM learning concepts, children will also participate in arts (music, dance and/or fine arts) and foreign language each day, introducing them to foundational experiences through activities that move from concrete to abstract.
Auburn Day School will be located adjacent to the forthcoming AO Discover! Auburn-Opelika Children’s Hands-on Science Center, Auburn’s first children’s museum and science center, slated to open in spring 2020. Students who attend Auburn Day School will have daily access to AO Discover!
Murrah earned her B.A. in psychology from Mississippi State University and her M.Ed. in educational psychology with an emphasis in gifted education from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. While earning her masters degree, she assisted in conducting research through the National Research Center for Gifted and Talented and took courses in early literacy, curriculum writing, differentiation, creativity, special populations, statistics, and program evaluation. While in graduate school she taught gifted elementary students in Charlottesville City Schools and taught science courses at UVA’s Summer Enrichment Program. After graduate school, Katie taught K-4th grade students in all subjects as a gifted specialist at Clark Elementary School. In 2011 she received the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Murrah accepted the position as director of admissions and marketing at Peabody School. While at Peabody, Murrah grew the school population by 52% in her first year and served as a part of the administrative team to serve students, parents, and school stakeholders.
Because student-to-teacher ratios are kept small, space at Auburn Day School is limited. Class registration begins in late November. For registration or more information, visit www.auburndayschool.org.