A child assembles a tower from spaghetti noodles as part of a STEM project.

The State Library Board has awarded Early Learning Washington County (ELWC) $100,000 for its “Bridging Cultures — Growing Early Scientists” program, which focuses on expanding the availability of STEM literacy kits countywide.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. The kits reinforce the five early literacy practices connected to STEM: observe, explore, design, question and build.

“Our communities have expressed the need to expand early literacy efforts to address educational performance gaps and the inequity in access to STEM education, particularly for students of color,” says Begona Rodriguez-Liern, senior manager for ELWC. “Through this grant, we will be able to provide STEM education materials and methods through the distribution of 2,500 STEM literacy kits in English and other languages for children ages 2-6.”

Early Learning Washington County is a collaboration between Washington County Health and Human Services and United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. Its mission is to develop and implement a coordinated, culturally responsive and effective early learning system, and to ensure all children ages birth through six and their families are stable, healthy and prepared for educational and life success. ELWC is partnering with Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Portland Metro STEM partnership and the Hillsboro City Library on this project.

In addition to the 2,500 STEM literacy kits for parents and child care providers, the grant will allow the Hillsboro City Library to build a permanent collection of at least 1,000 new titles. These culturally and linguistically appropriate books for children and adults will include Arabic, Chinese, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese, Farsi, Marshallese, Chuukese and word-free picture books.

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