STEM education is a hot topic in early childhood education. Despite the advanced skills required in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, it's never too early to help your students begin to build a foundation, as well as a love for learning.
If you want to incorporate STEM learning into your preschool curriculum, consider trying the following eight ideas in your classroom:
1. Build with blocks
The kids in your class probably already love playing with blocks. Take advantage of this activity to start working on basic math and geometry skills. Give them different shapes and materials to play with and encourage critical thinking by asking your students questions, such as "Will this fall if I take away the bottom block?" Once they've made their theory - "Yes!" - test it by removing the block and watching the rest of the structure fall to the ground.
2. Take a walk
Sometimes it's nice to get outside the classroom for an hour - and that includes when teaching STEM topics. Nature gives you plenty of opportunities to talk about complex subjects in simple ways, such as why seasons change or how giant trees grow from tiny acorns. Encourage the kids to ask questions as you walk and consider collecting items, like leaves or stones, to create projects with back at school.
3. Engage with parents
When it comes to creating a foundation for STEM learning, your students' parents are your greatest allies. Ask them to continue some of the activities at home that you do in class to reinforce their impact.
4. Take a field trip
Nothing cements classroom learning like seeing the principles in real life. Take advantage of field trips around your community that illustrate STEM topics. For instance, if you live near a dam, learn about water flow and then visit the structure to see the principles in action. Or visit a science museum where your students can participate in hands-on activities while learning.
5. Read a book
As with most academic subjects, picture books can be an effective way to communicate STEM topics to your students. Choose books about engineers, scientists or other STEM-related careers so that your students can begin to see how these principles translate into fun jobs. There are also a number of books that specifically encourage girls to pursue studies in these fields. This is particularly important in light of the fact that STEM careers have historically lacked women. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women hold only 29 percent of jobs related to science and engineering despite comprising approximately 50 percent of the total workforce.
6. Try water play
Playing with water in the classroom is an important sensory experience that helps your students learn concepts such as sinking and floating. These ideas will contribute to their understanding of deeper math and science concepts, such as density and fluid mechanics, later on in their academic experience. Consider filling a tub with water and have the kids guess which items in the classroom will sink and which will float.
7. Find shapes in the classroom
Observation is critical for success in STEM. One way to encourage this skill while also instilling early math principles is by helping your students identify shapes in their own environment. The kids might be able to name a square if shown a paper cutout in the shape, but can they find it in the table they are working on or in the window panes?
8. Ask good questions
STEM subjects are all about asking good questions and then looking for solutions. Encourage your students to become critical thinkers by asking them these types of queries. For instance, if one of them tells you about a rainbow she saw, ask "What do you think caused the rainbow?" and then search out the answer together. This will help create a pattern that will equip your students well for studying STEM.
Learn more about incorporating STEM learning into your curriculum by enrolling in the ProSolutions Training online course "STEM in the Preschool Classroom."
Through this course, you will gain a better understanding of STEM and learn new ways to incorporate it into your classroom. You will:
Contact ProSolutions Training today to learn more about how "STEM in the Preschool Classroom" and our other completely online courses can help advance your career in early childhood education.