STEM in the early years

I attended the Learning.com and eSchoolNews’ webinar, Integrating STEM in the Elementary Years: Why It’s Critical to Start Early.  The presenters were Celeste Baine, Director of Engineering Education Services Center, and Diana Laboy-Rush, Product Manager of Learning.com’s STEM Solution.  Overall, the webinar reinforced some general big ideas about STEM curriculum.  I’ve summarized them here:

  • Elementary students are natural engineers.  By nature, they are curious, inquisitive, and willing to take risks.  This is why educators need to capitalize on this developmental stage to ensure continuous interest and involvement in STEM.
  • The very nature of engineering builds problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, which are applicable to all arenas of learning and life.
  • The need exists to help students understand that engineers are the designers of our world.  Engineers are the ones who create the things we like and appreciate in life – examples provided:  cell phones, email, the “yellow line” when watching football, roller coaster rides, etc.
  • Diana Laboy-Rush shared a clear framework for meeting STEM objectives in the early years.  As one who never excelled in science, this framework helped “de-mystify” STEM for me, breaking it down into a manageable conceptual framework:  1)  Growing science thinkers – analyzing problems systematically, applying inquiry to learn, 2)  creating with technology – to communicate fully, clearly, creatively, and develop logical thinking, 3)  engineering is problem-solving – design process and solve problems and think critically, 4)  math is the language and the tool – iteration and conditionals, coordinates, variables, and random numbers
  • Components of an effective STEM curriculum align with pedagogical best practices such as making learning relevant and meaningful, using authentic problems, etc… what most educators already strive for in the classroom.
  • Learning.com offers a very effective “case study” on how one teacher used Learning.com’s STEM curricula (AhaMath!, AhaScience!, EasyTech) to create an interactive, media-rich lesson.  I would recommend checking it out as it provides a very structured approach to designing and implementing a comprehensive lesson. 

I wish the webinar presented a consolidated review of research and developmental and learning theories, really building the case for STEM in the early years.  However, the webinar focused on reiterating key concepts related to integrating STEM in the elementary school curriculum and shared a few examples and resources to help teachers put these concepts into practice.

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