Tag Archive for: COGNITION

Empowering Young Minds: Mebane Foundation Supports STEAM Storytime at Cognition

By Meredith Ratledge

Becca White, educational center manager at Cognition, leads a STEAM Storytime session.

Cognition Davie Children’s Museum is dedicated to promoting educational outcomes and exploration. While the nonprofit provides opportunities for people of all ages to play, learn, and grow, one program in particular consistently shines bright. In partnership with the Mebane Foundation, an innovative program called STEAM Storytime is making significant strides in early childhood literacy.

STEAM Storytime: Igniting a Passion for Reading

STEAM Storytime integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math activities with engaging storytelling for young children. Cognition’s program comprises a reading session followed by a related STEAM activity or craft, concluding with playtime in the museum’s main exhibit area. 

Tailored to children aged three to five, each storytime event accommodates up to twelve children and their families. At the end of each event, children receive a copy of the book read that day to take home with them. 

While the museum’s play area encourages an enthusiasm for STEAM concepts, Cognition staff also emphasize the importance of integrating STEAM within the context of reading. During these STEAM activities, the process itself is more important than the final product of the activity or craft. Hands-on play allows children to exercise creative thinking skills and encounter new ideas.

Jessica White, site coordinator, and Becca White, educational center manager, were eager to share their thoughts. 

“Being exposed to science themes and vocabulary at a young age correlates with later success in those fields. Do three-year-olds understand the concept of a phase change and the complexity of what’s actually happening? No, but if you put it out there, it will be more familiar when they start studying it in school and easier for them to grasp,” Jessica explained.

STEAM Storytime themes have ranged from dinosaur bones to Thanksgiving turkeys. At one session, a bilingual Spanish book, “Paletero Man,” followed the story of a man and his popsicle stand. Children made their own popsicles and explored the concept of phase changes. At the end of playtime at the museum, the popsicles were frozen and ready to enjoy. 

Another favorite was “Here We Go Digging for Dinosaur Bones,” where attendees dug for plastic dinosaurs amid an excavator site – a small sand-filled kiddie pool. Most recently, kids created a “turkey bomb” by mixing vinegar, baking soda, and food coloring in a small plastic bag. This exposure to chemical reactions accompanied the Thanksgiving book “Turkey Trouble.”

A Key Partnership

The STEAM Storytime program wouldn’t be possible without financial support from the Mebane Foundation.

Jessica shared, “We tried to introduce similar programming in the fall of 2021 when we reopened after COVID. It was originally called ‘Little Cogs Read,’ but it got too pricey, and we couldn’t sustain it with the books we were giving out at each event.”

A grant from the Mebane Foundation enabled the museum to relaunch the program a full year later, in October of 2022. 

“The Mebane Foundation has made this possible. They’ve allowed this to be free, so we don’t have to charge families for the event, enabling us to reach more people and ensuring we can give books out to every family,” Becca elaborated.

Taking home copies of “There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow.”

Preparing Children For Life Through Literacy 

The Mebane Foundation’s mission is to prepare children for life through literacy, ensuring that children read at or above grade level by the end of the third grade. This made funding STEAM Storytime a natural fit for the organization. Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation, noted their commitment to the museum.

“Cognition does really good work around here. So ever since they opened their doors, we’ve been engaged with them on some level,” Colbourne shared.

“It’s a place for community and families to come together. What brings people together is their children, young children. Not only is Cognition educational, it’s a good social outlet,” commented Colbourne.

Young ears listen in as Cognition Site Coordinator Jessica White reads “How to Catch a Mermaid.”

Cognition approached the Mebane Foundation in 2022 with a grant proposal for STEAM Storytime. Since the foundation’s primary focus is funding literacy initiatives for pre-K to fifth graders, this program hit its “sweet spot.” 

“STEAM Storytime brings young families together and brings books to life. Some kids thrive on that multi-sensory engagement. The opportunity to engage with both the child and the parent is pretty cool. Any opportunity to make a kid excited about reading is important. This program fits in well with what we do and what we’re after,” he said.

Colbourne also elaborated on why programming like this is so critical in this age group. 

“If you can’t read at a third-grade level by third grade, you’ll probably struggle in life. It’s going to be very difficult. But if you make reading fun for a young child, that will stick with them. And when that sticks with them, it achieves what this foundation is trying to do: enable young kids to read at a good level and, in this case, make it even more fun,” he said.

Immersive learning at work – digging for seashells after reading “What Lives in a Shell.”

An Interactive, Hands-On Approach

Cognition has been thrilled by the community’s engagement with this program, as well as how they have been able to develop and perfect it over time.

 “We have really hit our stride with the programming. There was a learning curve regarding what the kids like to do, what they’re able to do, and what the parents can help with. We initially started with a smaller group, but within the last two months, we expanded the number of tickets we have for each event, and we’re still filling up. So just being able to grow with this is exciting,” Jessica shared.

“The best feedback we could possibly get is that so many of those kids continue to come back every week. You know you’re doing something right when you have regulars, but you’re also still appealing to newbies”.

Looking Ahead

Both Cognition and the Mebane Foundation look forward to opportunities to continue working together on programs like STEAM Storytime. 

“We value our relationship with the Mebane Foundation. We appreciate their support and look forward to possibilities of future partnerships,“ Jessica stated.

“We’re so excited to continue this program in the future, and we have some other ideas that we think align with both our mission and the Mebane Foundation’s that we look forward to sharing with them,” she elaborated.

The STEAM Storytime program is a testament to the power of community collaboration within early childhood education. As the program continues to thrive, it serves as a model for how targeted literacy initiatives can kindle a love of reading in young minds, laying the foundation for a brighter future for the next generation.

Attendees join for a story about New Year’s Eve during the holiday season.

Mebane Foundation Provides Free Fridays at COGNITION

By Jeanna Baxter White

Hadley Clendenin (3) “rides” a John Deere tractor into the agricultural exhibit.

Catherine (3) says she wants to be a doctor. James (5) wants to “build like daddy.” 

COGNITION meets both of their interests,” said their mom, Katie Sanders. “ It offers wonderful hands-on activities and keeps the kids away from screen time which we try to limit. We feel very fortunate that the community chose to invest in this space for our children and future children.” 

“It’s nice to have something in the area for children to do, particularly on rainy days,” said Christiana Day who brought her three-year-old daughter, Hadley.

Kids Can Get Hands-On

Initially built through a community-wide capital campaign, the interactive learning space in downtown Mocksville offers nearly 5,000 square feet of interactive exhibits for ages nine and under.  A farm-to-table theme takes children from the farm to the market to shopping for a balanced plate and preparing it in the food truck. From sewing garments to laying bricks, to investigating slides under the microscope, children get a basic introduction to some of the industries in Davie County.  Downstairs, a hands-on makerspace allows ages 10 and up to craft, tinker, and create. Admission is $5 per person for the upstairs exhibit area, with separate admission for the makerspace.

Sanders and Day represent two of the 11 families who took advantage of the first Free Fridays event held at the museum on June 11th. Sponsored by a grant from the Mebane Foundation, the program allows children ages 0-7 to visit the upstairs museum free of charge. Catherine, James, and Hadley were three of the 25 children who enjoyed the opportunity. 

Free Fridays

“With COVID-19 hitting when it did, basically simultaneously with the opening of COGNITION, we thought a small injection of Foundation funds would ease the financial burden for families, thus “Free Fridays” was born,” said Mebane Foundation President Larry Colbourne. 

“COGNITION’s vision to help children play, learn, and grow through hands-on, interactive experiences complements our mission to support early transformative learning opportunities,” said Colbourne. “Research shows that play is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life. It promotes healthy physical and emotional development as well as critical thinking skills which are essential for success in school and in life.”  

“Free Fridays are a wonderful opportunity for COGNITION to reach more families and show them everything we have to offer,” said Jessica Huyett, COGNITION site coordinator. “There truly is something here for everyone, I even caught some of the parents laughing and playing with the exhibits! Most of the families who took advantage of Free Friday said they would definitely be coming back and telling all their friends as well. We are so grateful for the support of the Mebane Foundation and everything they do to support the children in our community.”

Activities for All Age Groups

The Mebane Foundation also recognizes and supports the value COGNITION offers for older students. 

“COGNITION has partnered with local industry to put on Camp COGNITION: Cardboard Engineering. The camp highlights engineering-type skills and fosters creativity and collaboration. This is a program the Mebane Foundation will throw some support behind as well! I hope the community will take advantage of this cool opportunity”

Huyett explained the two different camps that are being made possible through Ashley Furniture Industries, which donated the tools and supplies. Four one-week sessions will be offered beginning June 21-24. Rising 2nd – 4th graders will get to design and construct a life-sized train set while rising 5th – 8th graders will design and construct a full-size functional mini-golf course. 

“What I want people to understand about Camp COGNITION: Cardboard Engineering is that it isn’t just cutting and duct-taping cardboard together. At camp, we will be following the engineering design process to plan and design what either the train set or mini-golf course will look like. Campers will then learn methods of cutting, bending, and fastening using safe tools to fabricate their design.”

“Critical thinking skills are essential for lifelong success. Our goal is to help children develop those skills while they are young through hands-on problem solving,” explained Cammie Webb, chair of COGNITION’s board of directors.

“This camp is a GREAT opportunity for kids to exercise their brains this summer while having a blast!” added Huyett. “Your children will discover a love for creating, learn basic engineering and design methods, practice teamwork and collaboration, and gain tools for the future. You don’t want to miss out!” 

How to Register for Camps

To register for Camp COGNITION visit www.cognitiondavie.org/calendar or stop by the museum.

COGNITION is open Wednesday-Friday with a morning session from 9:30-11:30 and an afternoon session from 1:30-3:30. There is an additional morning session on Saturdays from 9:30-11:30. The museum is making every effort to keep visitors safe as they begin to reopen. An air scrubber was installed thanks to a donation from Davie Community Foundation and exhibits are thoroughly cleaned after each session.

Advanced registration is required for all activities so check out the calendar page on the website at www.cognitiondavie.org/calendar to reserve your spot.

About COGNITION of Davie

COGNITION is located at 119 N. Salisbury St. next door to the Davie Community Foundation in Mocksville. The museum offers nearly 5,000 square feet of interactive exhibits for ages nine and under, and a hands-on makerspace for crafting, tinkering, and creating for ages 10 and up. Admission is $5 per person for the upstairs exhibit area, with separate admission for the makerspace.

The gears at Cognition are always turning – follow them on Facebook and Instagram for additional events and updates. You can also visit www.cognitiondavie.org, email info@cognitiondavie.org, or call (336) 753-1046.