Del Valle ISD partners with Thinkery to bring museum exhibits to child development center

Del Valle ISD unveiled a new, first of its kind partnership with the Thinkery, Austin’s children’s museum, bringing the features of the Mueller location to residents of the area in the summer of 2024. 

"We had professional development with the Thinkery for our pre-K teachers, and I approached them and asked, ‘As we're building these, would you be interested in partnering with us so that we could bring the Thinkery to our community?,’ Dr. Annette Tielle, the Del Valle ISD Superintendent, said. 

The Thinkery will be investing $1.6 million into one of the three newly opened child development centers in Del Valle ISD. 

It will act as a first of its kind neighborhood museum, featuring galleries and exhibits both indoors and outside. 

According to Dr. Tielle, this new partnership will give community members without transportation the opportunity to experience the Thinkery without going far.

The Thinkery will also provide professional development for educators to integrate the STEAM Learning Institute, the Thinkery’s learning method that uses inclusive research, development and training.

"So here our approach to learning is that children can explore and be creative. We're inquiry based," Priscilla Cortez, Chief Advancement Officer at the Thinkery, said. "We have numerous hands-on activities for them to do as well as formal learning in classrooms. We really serve to complement, we hope, what children are learning with their teachers in the classrooms that they can take it home with them as well as being able to learn new things in our space, whether it's at our location in Mueller or definitely here at the new location and Del Valle."

Instructional coaches will help teachers expand their lessons to use these indoor and outdoor spaces. They hope this will serve as a model for other school districts and children’s museums around the country. 

"It is actually being designed with the community and for the community," Cortez said. "Many of the residents here will see a lot of the information that they shared with us about their wants and needs and outdoor and indoor learning spaces for their children." 

This year the school district also opened a new middle school, administration building and three child development centers as part of the 2019 bond. 

The child development centers replace portable buildings that had been in use for over 31 years. These locations are spread out around the campus, with a north, south and central location. 

The central location is unique for two reasons. It will be home to the Thinkery partnership, as well as a place for teen moms and dads to bring their children. The school will offer free childcare so long as the parents take a parenting course during their school day. 

"That’s something that’s really based on the heart of this child development center," Tielle said. 

There will be paid internships for students as well. Students also have the opportunity to work and learn about child development at the new centers. Tielle tells us that two of their interns have been hired on full time. 

"Our students who are in the education pathway are going to intern and be trained by the Thinkery and coached by the Thinkery so that they will be the world class educators that they are growing up to be and be able to retain them here in our district," Tielle said. 

The Thinkery and Del Valle partnership will open to the community in August 2024.