Aspen Science Center developing program for preschools throughout the Roaring Fork Valley

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
A preschool-age student plays at the Aspen Science Center's STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) Room earlier this year.
David Houggy |

Is preschool too early to expose children to science?

Absolutely not, according to Aspen Science Center President David Houggy.

“If you watch a 3-year-old, they are natural scientists,” Houggy said.

Children’s exploration of the world around them involves touching, poking, tasting, prying and disabling, which is exactly what scientists do every day, he said.

With a decline in the number of college students pursuing degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), Aspen Science Center is ramping up its efforts to promote science education, focusing primarily on local youth.

“We believe that the best approach is to get kids engaged in and excited by science at an early age,” Houggy said.

“Up through the age of 5, the brain is developing plasticity, which means that it’s malleable” — and thus more important than ever to expose and inspire young children to sciences.

To that end, Aspen Science Center is working to develop a science education program targeted specifically for preschools.

In July, the 11-year-old nonprofit hired Maya Hunt as an education coordinator to help spearhead the program.

Hunt spent her first few months researching preschool education and talking with other science center officials across the country in an effort to better understand what programs and resources are available to help preschool teachers teach science, Houggy said.

What they found is that “There aren’t really a lot out there,” he said.

“You can buy the books, the toys, the training course,” Houggy said. “But nobody’s pulling it all together.”

Aspen Science Center hopes to change this by introducing science into preschool classrooms with a comprehensive approach and seamless transition for teachers.

The program, dubbed a Learning Module, is centered on providing preschool teachers a scientific theme for their class to explore for a designated period of time.

As part of the program, Aspen Science Center would supply preschool teachers with everything they need to teach these topics, including professional development and training, lesson plans, ideas for relevant activities and any necessary educational materials, objects or tools.

The scientific topics are designed to be interactive and exciting yet age-appropriate, Houggy said.

Exploring the science of colors and answering questions like, “How do colors mix?” while working hands-on with paints and light, for instance, is one way to engage and also educate children on the matter, he said.

Hunt, who’s worked closely with preschool teachers from Aspen to Rifle to develop the program since late October, will lead the Learning Module with an in-classroom demonstration for every topic.

“Teachers are really, really busy and have very limited time,” Hunt said.

She noted that one of the program’s goals is to make it as easy as possible on the teachers.

The preschool education program is the Science Center’s first step as part of a greater initiative to offer more consistent programming in the future.

This includes searching for a permanent home, said Houggy, who’s eyeing spaces in Willits and Carbondale.

For more information, contact Houggy at