- Champ Lane at ECHO
Vermont's budding young scientists are getting a boost from the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. The Burlington science center and lake aquarium recently received an Early Learning Initiative grant of nearly $150,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Over the next two years, ECHO will create curricula, materials and training for educators who work with the preschool set. Last February, ECHO opened Champ Lane, a play space for children ages 6 and under that provides rich learning opportunities through hands-on activities including a water table, a multilevel boat, a French-language market and a tree house, plus twice-daily science programs taught by ECHO staff in the space. In partnership with Let's Grow Kids, the Greater Burlington YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club and Burlington Children's Space, the new grant money will allow ECHO to train early educators around the state to teach STEM concepts — like the ones taught in Champ Lane — in their own spaces, says ECHO's executive director Phelan Fretz. Every young child is a scientist, "trying to figure out how the world works," Fretz says. "Our job is to guide them."