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UMD Team Again Wins National Affordable Housing Design Competition

April 22, 2019
Contacts: 

Maria Day-Marshall  301-405-6795, Lee Tune 301-405-4679

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For the second year in a row, a team of graduate students from the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation has won the Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). UMD teams finished first last year and second in 2016, their only two previous entries in the 6-year-old competition.

This year the University of Maryland team took first place and the $20,000 top prize with its design for Brooklyn Bend, a mixed-use housing and retail development for low- and moderate-income residents located along San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Results were announced Wednesday. Defending champion Maryland beat out more than 70 other teams, including the other three finalists, second place University of California, Berkeley, and runners-up Yale University and Virginia Tech.

Judges cited the team’s well-developed financial package and understanding of the concepts behind the proposal, and commended the project for having the highest population density among the four finalists. The design, which fronts the San Antonio River, emphasizes energy efficiency, water pollution control and promotion of healthy lifestyles.

Instead of a layout that included just one or two large buildings, the team designed a village-like development with a variety of housing unit designs and sizes to meet a wide range of needs, said Kyle Huck (dual master’s degree program in architecture and real estate development).

“All the proposals were unique in their own ways, but I think what set ours apart was that we really tried to use the site to its highest and best use,” he said, “and not just meet the requirements but to use the site as appropriately as possible to create a proposal that was more dense, which results in a greater amount of affordable housing.”

“We have a lot of dual degrees on our team,” said Cassandra Huntington (dual master’s degree program in architecture and real estate development). “The fact that we have the real estate development degree in addition to the architecture degree gives us a leg up on most of the competition, because we have a better understanding of both the design and the finance sides.”

In addition to graduate students Huck and Huntington, other members of the team are:  Lauren Stamm (master’s degree program in community planning); Andrew Mazer (master’s degree program in architecture); and Nyasha Mandima (master’s degree program in real estate development). The team’s advisors are Maria Day-Marshall, director of UMD’s Real Estate Development Program. and Rob McClennan, senior project manager, Bonstra | Haresign Architects, AIA, and UMD adjunct professor.

Donald Linebaugh, interim dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, said the Maryland team's design demonstrated the strengths of the school's interdisciplinary approach.

"Their winning submission was a thoughtful and nuanced response to a challenging site along San Antonio's Riverwalk," said Donald Linebaugh, interim dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "They drew on their strengths in design, planning, and real estate finance to craft a project that put people and community first, activating the site and delivering a safe, affordable, and beautiful housing solution."

"With 12 dual degree programs in our School," explained Linebaugh, "MAPP+D is a national leader in interdisciplinary graduate education. And the students' innovative winning submission, clearly demonstrates the strengths of our interdisciplinary approach to the built environment."  

The San Antonio Housing Authority board, which is looking to redevelop the site, will review the winning proposal in coming months.

According to HUD, “the need for quality, affordable housing has never been greater,” and its affordable housing competition is intended to “advance the design and production of livable and sustainable housing for low- and moderate-income people through research and innovation.”

 

“When it comes to creating innovative affordable housing, HUD does not do this work alone,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “Congratulations to the University of Maryland and all of our finalists, for their consciousness stream of good ideas that increases housing opportunity for Americans with modest incomes.”

University of Maryland Statement Against Hate and Bias

November 5, 2017
Contacts: 

 Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

 
Statement Against Hate and Bias 
Joel Seligman, AVP for Communications and Marketing - November 5, 2017
 

UMD sincerely regrets the overwhelming misunderstanding resulting in the #UMDNotAHome social media conversation. The statements on social media connected to this hashtag do not reflect the positions of the university or our leaders' mutual commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus and across our nation.

To put it plainly, the UMD administration stands against hate and bias in all of its forms and wants every Terp to feel welcome, safe and at home at the University of Maryland. 

In recent months, there have been instances of intentional provocation by hateful, far-right groups spreading targeted messages that the administration finds despicable. These outside agitators want to divide our campus community into factions that are in conflict with one another from within UMD, rather than see our campus stand together in opposition to the broader forces of hate, white supremacy, anti-immigrant xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and anti-semitism. 

It is understandable that some members of our community are also disturbed by remarks by university officials, even when the comments are quoted entirely out of context and in a manner that misrepresents the meaning. UMD has seen an example of one of our longtime colleagues unfairly criticized for her efforts to provide legal advice to the University Senate Campus Affairs Committee literally at the same time she is working to advance the cause of inclusion.

The administration encourages all members of our community to work together—students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni—to increase respect, inclusiveness, and cohesiveness on our campus. A comprehensive list of efforts underway by UMD administration is available at umd.edu/umdreflects 

 

 

UMD Named a 2017 Best College by MONEY Magazine

July 12, 2017
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  The University of Maryland ranked No. 11 among public universities according to MONEY Magazine’s 2017 list of Best Colleges. UMD ranked No. 20 overall among U.S. institutions. 

To calculate rankings, MONEY assessed more than 700 colleges in the U.S. based on three equally-weighted categories, including educational quality, affordability and alumni success. MONEY measured 27 factors within these categories covering areas such as instructor quality, measuring the study-to-faculty ratio, affordability for low-income students and value-added earnings, which measures if the school is launching students to better paying jobs. 

Earlier this year, UMD was also ranked a Best Value College by ForbesPrinceton Review and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

UMD Capitol Hill Forum Addresses Health Disparities Research & Action for Equity

September 23, 2016
Contacts: 

Contacts: Elise Carbonaro, 301-405-6501

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland, in collaboration with Rep. John P. Sarbanes and the Big Ten Academic Alliance, recently convened more than 100 people for a Research on the Hill forum focused on strategies to achieve health equity at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. Moderated by Stephen B. Thomas, Ph.D., professor and director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity in the UMD School of Public Health, the panel discussion engaged experts from academia, federal health agencies and the private business sector in a candid conversation about how to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities among vulnerable populations.

“Our exploratory research holds the solutions to many of the most challenging problems of our day,” said UMD Vice President and Chief Research Officer Patrick G. O’Shea, Ph.D. “As a university, it is our mission to create and understand knowledge to develop better ways to house and heal and fuel and feed our people in advanced societies that are just, secure, and free. Achieving health equity touches on the ‘heal’ aspect of that mission.”

The topics ranged from the progress that has been made in access to medical care as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to challenges that still remain in improving quality of care and in making the medical care system incorporate public health and address the social determinants of health that prevent people from acting health promotion and disease prevention recommendations. 

“The state of Maryland has embraced the ACA and there is clear evidence that the new incentives are indeed moving hospital systems away from a fee-for-service business model to one that rewards quality care and positive health outcomes over the volume of procedures,” said Thomas. “While the transition is not perfect, our state is a national leader for what the future of health care will look like.”

Panel members shared examples of effective and innovative community-based health interventions and public-private partnerships that are making a difference through culturally-tailored health promotion and disease prevention services, and highlighted the emergence of social determinants of health such as poverty, discrimination and residential segregation as factors that must be overcome.

 “I’m convinced that if you address racial and ethnic disparities with respect to the delivery of health care and health care coverage in this country, you will build the best health care system we can possibly have because diversity is our country’s hallmark,” said Congressman Sarbanes, who, as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been a tireless advocate for improving healthcare quality and addressing health disparities.
 
To achieve health equity, researchers, policymakers, and industry leaders must address broader issues beyond the traditional biomedical model and build trust between those who control health care delivery system and those who have lost hope in the system, said members of the panel. 

The panelists recommended that health equity be incorporated into all public policies, not just those related to health care, to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities. 

Panel members included:

  • Margo Edmunds, Ph.D., Vice President, Evidence Generation and Translation at Academy Health;
  • J. Nadine Gracia, M.D., M.S.C.E., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Julia Huggins, President of Cigna Mid-Atlantic;
  • Kolawole Okuyemi, M.D., MPH, Professor of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Director of the Program in Health Disparities Research and Inaugural Endowed Chair for Health Equity at the University of Minnesota; and
  • Eliseo Pérez-Stable, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health.

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, who represents Maryland’s 5th Congressional District and is a distinguished UMD alumnus, also joined the event and emphasized that as an interconnected community, we should all care about health disparities.
 
“It is unacceptable that in the United States, where all are created equal in the words of our Declaration of Independence, that one’s access to healthcare may be higher or lower as a result of race, gender, or income,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Everybody being healthy is of concern to each and every one of us.”
 
He discussed how we must continue to defend the patient protections that Americans are benefiting from thanks to the ACA, such as the no-cost access to preventive services like mammograms and immunizations, as well as remind people of the dramatic increase in the number of people, particularly people of color, who now have health coverage as a result.

The event was held as part of the University of Maryland’s Research on the Hill series, which is aimed at raising awareness of research with great societal significance.

View the conversation at: https://youtu.be/HPedKr0jZLQ

UMD Study Finds Connecting Uninsured Patients to Primary Care Could Reduce ER Use

May 6, 2015
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418
Hillery Tsumba 301-628-3425

Montgomery County, Md. Initiative Could Improve Health, Reduce Costs

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – An intervention to connect low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to a reliable source of primary health care shows promise for reducing avoidable use of hospital emergency departments in Maryland. A University of Maryland School of Public Health study evaluating the results of the intervention was published this week in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs

For twenty years, use of hospital emergency departments has been on the rise in the United States, particularly among low-income patients who face barriers to accessing health care outside of hospitals, including not having an identifiable primary health care provider. Almost half of emergency room visits are considered “avoidable.” The Emergency Department-Primary Care Connect Initiative of the Primary Care Coalition, which ran from 2009 through 2011, linked low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to safety-net health clinics. 

“Our study found that uninsured patients with chronic health issues – such as those suffering from hypertension, diabetes, asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, depression or anxiety – relied less on the emergency department after they were linked to a local health clinic for ongoing care,” says Dr. Karoline Mortensen, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and senior researcher. “Connecting patients to primary care and expanding the availability of these safety-net clinics could reduce emergency department visits and provide better continuity of care for vulnerable populations.”  

Funded by a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the initiative engaged all five of the hospitals operating in Montgomery County, Maryland at the time, and four safety-net clinics serving low-income patients. Using “patient navigators,” individuals trained to help patients find the care they need and can afford, these hospitals referred more than 10,000 low-income, uninsured and Medicaid patients who visited emergency departments to four local primary care clinics, with the goal of encouraging them to establish an ongoing relationship with the clinic and reduce their reliance on costly emergency department care. 

Two hospitals in Montgomery County who participated in the intervention continued the program after the initial grant period concluded because of the benefits they saw for patients and for reducing emergency department visits and associated costs. These hospitals are currently testing a new version of the intervention specifically deigned to link emergency department patients with behavioral health conditions to appropriate community-based services. 

While hospital administrators and health policy experts throughout the country are recognizing that access to primary care improves continuity of care for patients and reduces avoidable use of emergency departments, the implications of this project are particularly important for hospitals in Maryland, which are now operating under a unique all-payer model for hospital payments. Within this new payment structure, Maryland hospitals will have to meet ambitious spending, quality of care, and population health goals. Reducing avoidable use of emergency departments can help in reaching these goals.

The project provides promise not only for hospitals in Maryland but throughout the nation to improve health care experiences and outcomes for their patients. Shared learning systems were an integral component of the project so participants were learning from each other and sharing best practices throughout the project and that learning has now been documented and can be replicated in other communities.

“This was an incredibly rewarding project to work on,” says Barbara H. Eldridge, Manager of Quality Improvement at the Primary Care Coalition. “We created a learning system that permits us to sustain improved communication between patients and their providers, between hospital discharge planners and community based clinics, and across five hospitals operating in Montgomery County.” The initiative has proven successful in Montgomery County, Maryland and is being replicated in communities in other parts of the country. 

“Linking Uninsured Patients Treated In The Emergency Department To Primary Care Shows Some Promise In Maryland” was written by Theresa Y. Kim, Karoline Mortensen, and Barbara Eldridge and published in the journal Health Affairs

University Launches Dynamic, Interactive Information Website UMD Right Now

December 4, 2012
Contacts: 

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618 crystalb@umd.edu

College Park, Md. – Today, the University of Maryland launched a brand-new multimedia news and information portal, UMD Right Now, which provides members of the media and the public with real-time information on the university and its extended community.

UMD Right Now replaces Newsdesk, which previously served as the university’s news hub and central resource for members of the media. The new site is aimed at reaching broader audiences and allows visitors to keep up with the latest Maryland news and events, view photos and videos and connect with the university across all of its social media platforms.

“We designed UMD Right Now to be a comprehensive, vibrant site where visitors can find new and exciting things happening at Maryland,” said Linda Martin, executive director, Web and New Media Strategies. “Through social media, video, photos and news information, we hope to engage visitors and compel the community to explore all that Maryland has to offer.”

The new website, umdrightnow.umd.edu, contains up-to-date news releases and announcements, facts and figures about the university, a searchable database of faculty and staff experts, information highlighting innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, additional resources for news media and other campus and athletics news.

“UMD RightNow is the place to go to find out all the things happening on and around campus on any given day,” said Crystal Brown, chief communications officer. “This website brings real-time news, events and information right to your fingertips.”

For more information and contact information for the Office of University Communications, please visit umdrightnow.umd.edu.

Perfect Quantum Portal Emerges at Exotic Interface

June 19, 2019
Contacts: 

Chris Cesare 301-405-0824

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Researchers at the University of Maryland have captured the most direct evidence to date of a quantum quirk that allows particles to tunnel through a barrier like it’s not even there. The result, which is featured on the cover of the June 20 issue of Nature, may enable engineers to design more uniform components for future quantum computers, quantum sensors and other devices.

The new experiment is an observation of quantum (Klein) tunneling, a special case of a more ordinary quantum phenomenon. In the quantum world, tunneling allows particles like electrons to pass through a barrier even if they don’t have enough energy to actually climb over it. A taller barrier usually makes this harder and lets fewer particles through.

Klein tunneling occurs when the barrier becomes completely transparent, opening up a portal that particles can traverse regardless of the barrier’s height. Scientists and engineers from the Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials(CNAM), the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) and the Condensed Matter Theory Center (CMTC), with appointments in materials science and engineering, as well as physics, have made the most compelling measurements yet of the effect.

“Klein tunneling was originally a relativistic effect, first predicted almost a hundred years ago,” said Ichiro Takeuchi, a UMD professor of materials science and engineering (MSE) and the senior author of the new study. “Until recently, though, you could not observe it.”

It was nearly impossible to collect evidence for Klein tunneling where it was first predicted—the world of high-energy quantum particles moving close to the speed of light. But in the past several decades, scientists have discovered that some of the rules governing fast-moving quantum particles also apply to the (comparatively) sluggish particles traveling near the surface of some unusual materials.

One such material—which researchers used in the new study—is samarium hexaboride (SmB6), a substance that becomes a topological insulator at low temperatures. In a normal insulator like wood, rubber or air, electrons are trapped, unable to move even when a voltage is applied. Thus, unlike their free-roaming comrades in a metal wire, electrons in an insulator can’t conduct a current.

Topological insulators such as SmB6 behave like hybrid materials. At low enough temperatures, the interior of SmB6 is an insulator, but the surface is metallic and gives electrons some freedom to move around. Additionally, the direction that the electrons move becomes locked to an intrinsic quantum property called spin that can be oriented up or down. Electrons moving to the right will always have their spin pointing up, for example, and electrons moving left will have their spin pointing down.

The metallic surface of SmB6 would not have been enough to spot Klein tunneling, though. It turns out that Takeuchi and colleagues needed to transform the surface of SmB6 into a superconductor—a material that can conduct electrical current without any resistance.

To do this, they put a thin film of SmB6 atop a layer of yttrium hexaboride (YB6). When the whole assembly was cooled to just a few degrees above absolute zero, the YB6 became a superconductor, and, due to its proximity, the metallic surface of SmB6 became a superconductor, too.

It was a “piece of serendipity” that SmB6 and its yttrium-swapped relative shared the same crystal structure, said Johnpierre Paglione, a coauthor of the new paper who is a physics professor at UMD and the director of CNAM. “However, the multidisciplinary team we have was one of the keys to this success,” Paglione said. “Having experts on topological physics, thin-film synthesis, spectroscopy and theoretical understanding really got us to this point.”

The combination proved the right mix to observe Klein tunneling. By bringing a tiny metal tip into contact with the top of the SmB6, the team measured the transport of electrons from the tip into the superconductor. They observed a perfectly doubled conductance—a measure of how the current through a material changes as the voltage across it is varied.

“When we first observed the doubling, I didn’t believe it,” Takeuchi said. “After all, it is an unusual observation, so I asked my postdoc Seunghun Lee and research scientist Xiaohang Zhang to go back and do the experiment again.”

When Takeuchi and his experimental colleagues convinced themselves that the measurements were accurate, they didn’t initially understand the source of the doubled conductance. So they started searching for an explanation. It was Victor Galitski, a JQI Fellow, UMD physics professor and member of CMTC, who suggested that Klein tunneling might be involved. “At first, it was just a hunch,” Galitski said. “But over time we grew more convinced that the Klein scenario may actually be the underlying cause of the observations.”

UMD research scientist Valentin Stanev took Galitski’s hunch and worked out a careful theory of how Klein tunneling could emerge in the SmB6 system—ultimately making predictions that matched the experimental data well.

The theory suggested that Klein tunneling manifests itself in this case as a perfect form of Andreev reflection, an effect present at all metal-superconductor boundaries. Andreev reflection can occur whenever an electron from the metal hops onto a superconductor. Inside the superconductor, electrons are forced to live in pairs, so when an electron hops on, it picks up a buddy.

In order to balance the electric charge before and after the hop, a particle with the opposite charge—which scientists call a hole—must reflect back into the metal. This is the hallmark of Andreev reflection: an electron goes in, a hole comes back out. And since a hole moving in one direction carries the same current as an electron moving in the opposite direction, this whole process doubles the overall conductance—the signature of Klein tunneling through a junction of metal and a topological superconductor

In conventional metal-superconductor junctions, there are always some electrons that don’t hop onto the superconductor. They scatter off the boundary, reducing the amount of Andreev reflection and preventing an exact doubling of the conductance.

But because the electrons in the surface of SmB6 have their direction of motion tied to their spin, electrons near the boundary can’t bounce back—meaning that they will always transit straight into the superconductor.

“Klein tunneling had been seen in graphene as well,” Takeuchi said. “But here, because it’s a superconductor, I would say the effect is more spectacular. You get this exact doubling and a complete cancellation of the scattering, and there is no analog of that in the graphene experiment.”

Junctions between superconductors and other materials are ingredients in some proposed quantum computer architectures, as well as in precision sensing devices. The bane of these components has always been that each junction is slightly different, Takeuchi said, requiring endless tuning and calibration to reach the best performance. But with Klein tunneling in SmB6, researchers might finally have an antidote to that irregularity.

“In electronics, you know, device-to-device spread is the number one enemy,” Takeuchi said. “Here is a phenomenon that gets rid of the variability.”

The paper had 8 authors in addition to Takeuchi, Paglione, Lee, Zhang, Galitski and Stanev: Drew Stasak, a former research assistant in MSE; Jack Flowers, a former graduate student in MSE; Joshua S. Higgins, a research scientist in CNAM and the department of physics; Sheng Dai, a research fellow in the department of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of California, Irvine (UCI); Thomas Blum, a graduate student in physics and astronomy at UCI; Xiaoqing Pan, a professor of chemical engineering and materials science and of physics and astronomy at UCI; Victor M. Yakovenko, a JQI Fellow, professor of physics at UMD and a member of CMTC; and Richard L. Greene, a professor of physics at UMD and a member of CNAM.

University of Maryland Ranked No. 5 in the Country Among Best Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students

June 17, 2019
Contacts: 
 

Jennifer Burroughs 301-405-4621

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  The University of Maryland has been ranked the fifth best college in the nation for LGBTQ+ students, rising two spots from a previous listing. In a collaborative ranking with Campus Pride and Best Colleges, UMD continues to demonstrate its strong commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.

The joint ranking combines Best Colleges’ academic and affordability metrics and the Campus Pride Index Score, which measures LGBTQ-friendly campus life in a national rating system. Only universities with an above average rating, indicating excellent performance in all eight of the LGBTQ-inclusive factors on the Campus Pride Index, were considered.

“This recognition acknowledges our institutional commitment to become a fully equitable community that supports our LGBTQ+ populations,” said Luke Jensen, Ph.D., director, LGBT Equity Center. “It also indicates academic and affordable qualities that make our campus a great option for LGBTQ+ students. ” Jensen continued, “Our commitment to becoming a fully equitable campus is strong. We will persist in seeking new and innovative strategies to address issues that may diminish our most vulnerable populations, especially transgender people and LGBTQ+ people of color.”

UMD’s LGBT Equity Center was featured prominently in the university’s evaluation, which cited access to support groups, peer counseling services, resources for trangender students and information about health care. Other Center-led programs also contributed to the ranking:

  • The Rainbow Terrapin Network focused recently on a TransTerps Campaign. This effort offers tools for offices and student groups to assess and continuously improve their good practices for trans inclusion on campus. Dozens of departments and groups on campus have accessed their resources and are working to improve the climate for trans and nonbinary people.

  • The Lavender Leadership Honor Society, a first-of-its-kind collegiate leadership honor society, focuses on LGBTQ+ social justice. The society has inducted over 100 UMD students, staff, faculty, and alumni. Honorary inductions have included notable figures such as Eboné Bell, founder of the lesbian and queer focused Tagg Magazine, and Urooj Arshad, LGBTQ+ Muslim advocate.

  • Since 2015, UMD's LGBT Equity Center in collaboration with Education Abroad has hosted the Somewhere Over the Rainbow conference biennially. This symposium is a professional development on sexual orientation and gender identity in international education. Participants have come from  throughout the U.S. and from Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

For more information on UMD’s LGBT Equity Center, visit: https://lgbt.umd.edu/

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Responding to Adenovirus and Mold at the University of Maryland

June 7, 2019

Overview

  • We remain deeply saddened by the death of one of our students, Olivia Paregol. Olivia’s death is a tragedy, and our hearts and our thoughts have been with Olivia’s family and friends since her passing.
  • The university is confident that we exceeded public health practices in the handling of adenovirus on our campus. Our approach to reporting, coordinating with health officials, and communicating with our campus community exceeded Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
  • Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Clement requested an external review of protocols, policies, procedures and responses to adenovirus cases. The findings support the university’s approach.
  • Among our many actions regarding mold in campus buildings, we consulted with and followed the recommendations of the University of Maryland Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk; the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding mold remediation practices.
  • Plans for moisture control include upgrades to our HVAC systems and installing additional dehumidifiers. These actions are underway in an effort to reduce mold in the future.

Click here for more information.

UMD Researcher Develops Digital Preschool Curriculum to Improve Early Childhood Learning

June 6, 2019
Contacts: 

Audrey Hill 301-405-3468

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Early childhood is a critical time for brain development, and sets the stage for long-term academic success. A new, robust digital curriculum developed for four-year-olds by the University of Maryland, in collaboration with the Maryland State Department of Education and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, is being implemented in hundreds of classrooms across Maryland. The curriculum will ultimately be made available for free to licensed child care programs and public preschool teachers in Maryland, allowing access to high quality early child education regardless of resources.

Developed by University of Maryland researchers, former teachers, and graduate students, the “Children Study Their World” curriculum is based on the principles of project-based inquiry, with lesson plans for eight project topics that are tangible to preschoolers provided as digital books and made available on iPad. Lessons are bolstered by digitized versions of the National Museum of American History’s artifacts, using items like a skeleton marionette and a nurse’s satchel straight from the renowned museum’s collection to enhance learning.

The UMD Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention leads the curriculum project, which has been rolled out in 61 classrooms this year and will be implemented in 200 Maryland classrooms next school year.

The Children Study Their World curriculum fully aligns with Maryland’s Early Learning Assessment and Early Learning Standards, which means that children receive instruction throughout the year in all content areas outlined in the standards, such as literacy and math.

Brain research demonstrates the importance of providing young children with rich, hands-on learning experiences respectful of their capacity to learn and eagerness to explore, said Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention Executive Director Christy Tirrell-Corbin, PhD, who is also the principal investigator and director of the curriculum project.

“We chose project topics like ‘My Body’ and ‘All Aboard: Transportation’ for the children to investigate, as 4-year-olds are very concrete in their thinking and benefit from studying the world that surrounds them every single day,” she said. “Through project-based inquiry, the children’s interests help direct the learning on these topics, which also includes small group learning, field trips and classroom visits from experts,”  Tirrell-Corbin said.

Each of the interdisciplinary projects include digitized, child-friendly pieces from the Smithsonian collection that serve as the base of an “object investigation”—small group lessons written by Smithsonian staff who worked with the curriculum team.

“Collaborating with CECEI to produce ‘Children Study their World’ is an important part of our museum’s ongoing early learning initiative,” said Carrie C. Kotcho, A. James Clark Director of Education & Impact at the museum. “With this curriculum, our museum educators were able to integrate digitized objects from the National Museum of American History’s collections and share expertise on how to engage children with enjoyable learning experiences that support literacy and school readiness, play and inquiry, and the development of executive function skills.”

“Whether at Wegman’s Wonderplace, our play-based early learning space, in communities, or through digital curriculums like “Children Study their World,” we are dedicated to helping our youngest learners explore, learn and succeed,” said Kotcho.

Available on iPad, the guides enable the digital curriculum to be widely disseminated to licensed child care programs and public preschool teachers in Maryland, provide strategies for students with disabilities and English language learners.

"The most important component to a quality pre-K program is the teacher. The teacher needs to be equipped with the tools to deliver high-quality instruction," said Karen Salmon, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. "This new integrated curriculum and the training and coaching that accompany it helps to ensure this happens."  

In addition to the 200-classroom rollout, Tirrell-Corbin will host a podcast series focused on high-quality instructional practices for early-childhood teachers next year, and Children Study Their World staff will facilitate webinars for teachers and for coaches and program administrators.

“Children Study Their World” is a wonderful tool for teaching young children, said Patricia Aburn, a quality assurance specialist and credentialing liaison of the Maryland State Department of Education, who helps coach teachers to use the curriculum.

“Young children are like sponges their first five years,” Aburn said. “They need to be challenged, stimulated by free play and structured whole group and small group activities. They need to be socially engaged and exposed to language through rich vocabulary and stimulating literacy.”

 

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