STEM Learning in Early Childhood
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or STEAM (with the added A for Arts) have made their way into K-12 instruction over the past few years across the nation. By incorporating these subject areas across the curriculum – for example within a social studies or language arts unit – teachers have been able to help their students not only learn the required content, but deepen critical life skills such as problem solving, communication, creativity, teamwork, and resilience. It is these skills that employers continually rate as most desired in the workplace, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. STEM “literacy”, or a person’s ability to participate in learning of this caliber, is so important for brain development and the future of the workforce that in 2018, the United States developed a five year strategic plan to integrate STEM education across the nation. Once our children enter school, they will have the opportunity to receive high quality instruction that incorporates STEM learning. But what about in early childhood?
On the surface, it could seem that STEM is heavily focused on the use of devices and doing science related activities. In reality, STEM learning is focused on discovery and solving problems creatively. Technology (defined as any tool used to make a job easier) can be used, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a device. For babies, STEM concepts are everywhere! Everyday materials can be used at home or in a care setting to encourage STEM exploration. The video below shows a baby discovering something new and using technology – all through play:
Yes, the piece of technology this baby used was a book! He discovered that he was able to move in a different way and perhaps even faster than normal by sliding around on the book. Babies are smart, natural scientists!
The activities on the STEM Bingo Board below can be done with materials found around your home and are easily adaptable for babies and young children of all ages. The best part about these types of activities is that they are open ended and can grow with your child! As a baby, she may focus on a certain aspect of the play to develop a specific skill. In revisiting the activity as she gets older, your child sees things in a different light and will make new discoveries as a result. Watching deeper level thinking and reasoning unfold as your child grows is exciting, especially when it is accompanied by a developing strong sense of self. This kind of STEM learning can start right at home with you – try it out!
To access this STEM Bingo Board as a PDF with active link, click below. Take a screenshot and save it to your phone to keep these ideas at your fingertips!