STEM and Early Childhood Education
As a preschool teacher, I have utilized many different teaching styles and approaches. By using these approaches, I have been able to identify varying benefits as it pertains to the ways in which two to five-year-olds learn and develop. Working in an early childhood education setting (ages 6 months to 5 years) that incorporates STEM activities has opened my eyes to the many benefits children experience in linking the two.
Children who are exposed to science in their early childhood are able to reap a great deal of benefits. They are able to develop skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving, which would serve them well as they go through school. Being able to identify multiple solutions and outcomes are also skills young children gain when exposed to science at a young age.
Children are developing much faster and are able to absorb information much quicker than before. This is in many parts due to their exposure to technology. Infants as early as six months old can swipe phone screens and are able to connect the fact that these same devices create sounds and moving pictures that fascinate and entertain them. Fast forward to school age, where children are comfortable using tablets, computers, and other devices that aid in their learning. Through the use of technology, children are able to explore new worlds, connect with others, and learn through the use of video learning platforms. Technology not only aids in teaching but connects us all; it is ever-changing but luckily today’s children are able to adapt to and master it very easily.
STEM education gives children an opportunity to stretch the limits of their imagination and apply the disciplines of mathematics and science to create engineering advancements for the world around us. From a teaching perspective, I have rarely seen children more excited, than when given a chance to build bridges using cups and palette sticks, create lego structures, and of course the ever-popular game Marble Run. There are many engineering activities that children can do on their own, which build a sense of independence and pride in their efforts. Also, it is always great to see their little hands in motion as they construct and tinker away while being completely oblivious to the fact that they are developing motor and cognitive skills, and perhaps building a structure or machine that may one day change the world.
Teaching has given me the opportunity to not only impart knowledge but learn as well. In being able to learn about and subsequently develop a curriculum that incorporates STEM education in early childhood, I have seen first hand the benefits that children experience.
Children should be exposed to the STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics from as early as possible and have their interests in these fields fostered and nurtured. Education is the foundation for the future but STEM can very well be the four toothpicks that hold the marshmallows that are connected to hold the structure in place.