STEM Starts Early: Grounding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education in Early Childhood
In response to your question about using inexpensive materials to conduct STEM learning among children, I would like to mention that every day, I notice when I take my class outdoors for sand and water play that children remain busy in their findings, play, and interactions with peers. Children engage in sand and water activities and learn about measurements by pouring water from different sized containers. They learn how to mix sand and water, feel the texture of sand while building sand castles and other designs that help in sensory and motor development, and engage themselves in counting the sand toys and playing with them. They also learn and discuss about science concepts like full vs empty, coarse vs fine, pouring vs mixing, and they interact and collaborate amongst themselves to share their findings. The smiles on their faces, their peer collaborations to discuss possibilities, and the learning that happens in sand and water play all indicate to me that positive STEM building skills are being developed among children in their early years. Sand and water are inexpensive materials and can be found near the beach, in the sand pit, some in a backyard garden, park etc.
- Have you ever tried using STEM in teaching young learners? How was it?
In many schools, including our franchise system of schools in 39 states, we have included arts in this and call it STEAM. STEAM is evident in all age groups but it is difficult for many teachers to distinguish in the youngest age groups because they have been taught that it requires special equipment. This is not the case and often involves observing during natural play as well as intentionally setting up the classroom and outdoor area to allow for opportunities. (i.e. putting a bird feeder by the window or having a variety of sensory balls at child level)
- What are the advantages and disadvantages that you have observed using STEM practices in ECE?
There are no disadvantages in having STEAM in ECE. The skill building for children as well as the opportunity for teachers to learn effective observation and adaptation of lesson planning is quite valuable.
- Is your school patterned to adapt STEM-based practices?
STEAM-based practices are appropriate in all age groups. - Are there available STEM materials in your classroom?
Living animals and plants as well as simple machines are the best materials in any classroom.
- Have you ever tried teaching STEM-based lessons using inexpensive materials?
The theory of Loose Parts is perfect for this!Deanna
Great topic and wonderful questions. STEM/STEAM is already implemented at the ECE level. And many teachers have been implementing aspects of STEM/STEAM in their classrooms without the "label" even being there. Having been in this field for several years, having worked as a Preschool teacher and now on the management side for a national franchise, STEM is implemented in my center's classrooms through the simplest of ways.Have you ever tried using STEM in teaching young learners? How was it?Teaching STEM to ECE students is more simple than one would think. You may not expect Infants & Toddlers to go home and talk about their learning activities, but when you break it down to the parents through conversation it's possible for even the youngest of age groups to experience this. And it has been done before. The Toddlers are building with soft blocks. They stack 4 of them on top of one another. Then the teacher lays a piece of cardboard down to create a "ramp." She places a car at the top and it whizzes down! The "E" from STEM is being implemented - engineering at it's finest. Now take this activity into a Pre-K classroom; it can be enhanced by changing the height of the soft blocks, implementing terms such as "speed" and "velocity." Now you've included "S" for science a well!What are the advantages and disadvantages that you have observed using STEM practices in ECE?I have not seen any disadvantages by implemented STEM/STEAM into an ECE classroom. In fact, it has enhanced the curriculum components of the classrooms, engaged the teachers & students more, and have impressed families with the quality of education being delivered. It is, in fact, very valuable.Is your school patterned to adapt STEM-based practices?Absolutely; any classroom would be able to appropriately execute STEM-practices.Are there available STEM materials in your classroom?Yes; fine motor, living plants, simple machines are all implemented into the classroom and available to the students.Have you ever tried teaching STEM-based lessons using inexpensive materials?Depending on where you can buy things, Amazon always has great materials. I have recently also purchased some great STEM-enhancements from Lakeshore Learning.
If you are looking for a great math resource or a new approach to teaching mathematics to young children I highly suggest these two women as resources:
Jo Boaler - Mathematical Mindsets - Book and and she also has a website.Ellen Blinderman - who works at the Lawrence Hall of Sciencethey developed a class called Teaching Mathematics to young children and it was very informative and helpfulEllen, in particular, is a wealth of information on teaching math and science to young children. So, if you could connect with her or sign up for some professional development that she teaches or leads. . . she is amazing.I personally love teaching math to young children in a way that involves creative thinking, problem solving, being curious, wondering about numbers, story telling, and overall seeing the beauty and creativity in math.