Janice Morrison (TIES STEM education monograph series, attributes of STEM education, 2006) outlined several functions of a STEM education. She suggested that students should be:
• Problem-solvers – able to define questions and problems, design investigations to gather data, collect and organize data, draw conclusions, and then apply understandings to new and novel situations.
• Innovators – creatively use science, mathematics, and technology concepts and principles by applying them to the engineering design process.
• Inventors – recognize the needs of the world and creatively design, test, redesign, and then implement solutions (engineering process).
• Self-reliant – able to use initiative and self-motivation to set agendas, develop and gain self-confidence, and work within time specified time frames.
• Logical thinkers – able to apply rational and logical thought processes of science, mathematics, and engineering design to innovation and invention.
• Technologically literate – understand and explain the nature of technology, develop the skills needed, and apply technology appropriately.
How do we support this in early childhood education and care programming?
One of the first steps is to NOT BE AFRAID OF SCIENCE AND MATH!! You are actually doing math and science all day long, you just may not recognize it. Do you count when you go up and down the stairs, do you place one cup with one plate at lunch, do you hunt for feathers outside, do you do activities that match colors and sizes? These are all science and math activities.
The activities that happen on a daily basis DO support the criteria listed above.
Think about all of the things you do on a daily basis – provide for dramatic and block play, have snack and lunch, read stories, do a creative project and go outside. Let’s look at some of these activities from a STEM prospective.
Dramatic Play- dramatic play time offers the opportunity for children to count, identify characteristics of items, work out problems with other children, and redesign materials for their own purposes
Block Play – provides plenty of opportunity for children to problem solve how to build things, experiment with design and construction, count blocks, use imagination and inventiveness in creating new structures, and begin to think logically to solve problems
Outside Play – children are discovering things in nature, solving problems, becoming self-reliant in creating their own play, and figuring out how to use items in a new way
Show the children how much you enjoy STEM activities!