CUNY’s “Young Explorers” Discover IBM Computers

March 23, 2012 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

CUNY students have access to a number of resources enabling their success in the STEM majors—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Now, the children of CUNY students will have heightened support in those areas, as well, thanks to a recent donation by IBM of 45 Young Explorer™ computer learning centers to 14 CUNY campus child care centers, including the Early Childhood Center at BMCC.

A ceremony in recognition of the gift was held at BMCC, with guest speakers including CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and IBM’s VP of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and Foundation President, Stanley S. Litow.

BMCC President Antonio Pérez welcomed the attendees, and University Director of CUNY Child Care Services, Betty Pearsall, hosted the event.

Chancellor Goldstein, in his comments, thanked VP Litow, “who has been a champion in really trying to understand how to give tools to young people so that they can be inspired to learn, courageous in their learning, curious about the world, and to give them the kinds of opportunities that will enable them to do the best work that they are capable of.”

The gift, said Litow, will benefit “thousands and thousands of students this year and on into the future, and there’s a particular benefit to students who attend the City University because their children will be learning in an important way, the kind of content areas that are critical today … the employment rate for STEM graduates is half what it is overall, and their earning power is 65% greater than that of other college graduates.”

Kid-friendly learning
The Young Explorer™ computers are housed in brightly colored, Little Tikes™ furniture, and equipped with award-winning educational software to help children explore math, science and language concepts.

“They’re very different from a computers that you would put in a classroom for older children,” said Litow.

“They’re specifically designed to be inviting for young learners, with special software available such as Millies Math House … and there’s a free website for all teachers, all parents, called kidsmartearlylearning.org, that gives tips on how to help advance these learning concepts with your children on a regular basis.”

The donation of the computers, he said, is one of a number of CUNY/IBM projects and partnerships.

“We’re working with CUNY on the development of a new model for high school, grades nine through 14, which opened in Brooklyn in September, the Pathways in Technology Early College High School,” Litow said.

“We’ve had an enormous amount of cooperation and collaboration with CUNY and City Tech [NYC College of Technology], which helped us to build this school.”

Also, he said, “We’ve been working with Queensborough Community College, using data analytics to help the teachers and administrators at Queensborough and other CUNY campuses to be able to predict which students need what kind of work, and to be able to get it to them to improve retention rates, and graduation rates.”

Global and local initiatives
Since 1998, IBM has focused on increasing the number of children entering into math, science and engineering fields, by forwarding a number of global and national initiatives, including the KidSmart Early Learning Program, which provided the Young Explorer™ computer modules.

Geared toward both Spanish and English speakers, the donated computer centers are valued at $135,000, and funded through a $4.3 million IBM initiative to provide more than 1,700 computer learning centers to schools and nonprofit organizations that serve disadvantaged students.

At BMCC, the computers will benefit children ages three through five.

“We have over 180 little ones in our Early Childhood Center now,” said President Pérez.

“I get a special opportunity, a couple times a year, to read to them,” he said, “and what I find so fascinating about the children—and why I’m so glad IBM has made this donation—is that their minds are constantly going; they’re always exploring, and they always have questions. I believe these computers will provide an opportunity to do just that; to explore, to discover and learn, for the children of our students.”

IBM’s donation of the 45 computer learning centers began in response to a proposal developed by Kirstin Swanson, Director of Development at Kingsborough Community College, and Heather Brown, director of that college’s childcare center.

At the close of the ceremony, both Swanson—who was unable to attend the ceremony, and represented by a colleague—and Brown, were awarded plaques thanking them for their efforts, and presented by Chancellor Goldstein.