Bill Nye is clearly a smart man. But the Science Guy isn’t the only one who believes in educating our kids in the ways the world works—Umbrella Tree’s newest Little Engineers class aims to do just that. With different themes each week (think force, sound, measurement, gravity and light), budding engineers can experience the fun of science and math through hands-on games and experiments. Throw in a few take-home projects and your tykes will be making their own hypotheses before you can say inertia.

little engineers photo 5

photo: Chelsea Lin

Class Act
Since the play space’s opening in December, Umbrella Tree has been experimenting with class offerings and special events: yoga, art, dance, and cooking, plus story time, mama nights, and more. The Little Engineers class came about organically, since co-owner Arlene Sargeant has a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering and worked in medical devices and healthcare technology before founding Umbrella Tree with Louise Books. She’s now a proud mama to three kiddos—three smart, curious kiddos who have their mom’s knack for math and science.

little engineers photo 1

photo: Chelsea Lin

Finding Inspiration
Sargeant teaches the Little Engineers class for 2- and 3-year-olds, while Eric Ford—a University of Washington faculty with degrees from MIT and Columbia, and dad to twin boys—launched the class for 4- and 5-year-olds. “Our own kids are really the inspiration for doing the class,” Sargeant says. “We want to expose young kids as early as possible to science, and that has really been a lot of fun. While it’s great for kids to learn the basic science concepts covered in class, our goal is to show that science is fun and engaging, and it doesn’t require any fancy or special equipment. We try to use things we encounter in our daily, normal lives.”

little engineers photo 3

photo: Chelsea Lin

Collecting Data
The class just finished its first four-week session, which covered lessons in force/pressure, sound, light, touch, body measurement, and gravity. Junior scientists who sign up for the second session, focusing on architecture, can expect hands-on activities—past experiments have utilized bottle rockets, body tracing, paper helicopters and race cars—that make more complicated principles easily digestible for inquisitive kids. The younger class is more play-based, while the older kids make their own hypotheses, and get some more advanced lessons from a certain wisecracking, super-engineering beaver puppet.

little engineers photo 2

photo: Chelsea Lin

How to Get Started
If you’re interested in signing up, head on over to Umbrella Tree’s website, where you can register your curious kiddo for the next five-class series or individual drop-in dates. The classes will run on Saturdays and Wednesdays starting April 1; the class for 2- and 3-year-olds is 10 a.m.-10:50 a.m. on Wednesdays, the class for 3- and 4-year-olds is 10 a.m.-10:50 a.m. on Saturdays, and the class for 5- and 6-year-olds is 11 a.m.-11:50 a.m. on Saturdays. Due to a busy quarter at UW, Ford won’t be teaching Little Engineers this time around, though he will help develop the curriculum. Instead Architect Manika Bhagra, from the ARKKI – School of Architecture for Children & Youth in Finland, will be teaching this series.

If you and your budding engineer would like to give this class a try, take advantage of the pre-series drop-in: March 21 & March 25 at the same times as the classes will be running.

Umbrella Tree
2111 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Seattle, Wa 98109

Hours: Mon., 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (open until 7 p.m. for Happy Hour Wed.); Sat., 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sun., closed for parties 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Cost: $22/drop-in class; $105 for 5-week series

Has your little one taken a class at Umbrella Tree? What other classes would you like to see offered? Let us know in the Comments below.

— Chelsea Lin