Children are curious from birth. They all have an innate sense of wonder about their world as they explore, experiment and hypothesize throughout their play and leisure time. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and STEAM (STEM + Arts/Design) education aim to build on this curiosity and discovery by laying the foundation for a lifelong learning.
STEM/STEAM is a way of thinking about how educators can help children think in a more connected and holistic way, aligning with key practices of the approved learning frameworks.
However educators do not need to have all the answers when guiding children’s evolving STEM/STEAM learning and skills. Engaging with these concepts means embarking on a learning journey with children, co-constructing knowledge and creating a learning community one that supports experimentation and investigation.
Through intentional teaching and scaffolding children’s thinking, educators can help children to test and implement their theories and ideas.
Below are some strategies to do this:
- providing making/tinkering tables
- asking open-ended questions (for example, what happened/have you changed/have you noticed)
- making observations
- using clear language
- co-constructing understandings
- encouraging reflection
- allowing children time to think, create and problem solve and the opportunity to communicate.
STEM/STEAM teaching and learning are often embedded in the daily practices and programs at the service, and in the thinking and doing as educators guide and support children’s exploration and development. Examples of this might be as simple as measuring pea seedling growth (mathematics and science); drawing a representation of a block construction (art and engineering); or making a simple movie subject using building blocks (technology, engineering and art).
Further reading and resources:
Early Learning STEM Australia – an Australian Government initiative, which includes an upcoming pilot program in 100 preschools and a suite of resources.
Cool Australia – offers a diverse array of resources and a digital library. Educators register for free and accredited, online, professional development can also be purchased.
Little Scientists – offers STEM workshops and professional development.
Pauline Roberts – STEM in Early Childhood: How to keep it simple and fun.
Kate Highfield – Engaging children in STEM podcast.