17 September 2017
By now, we’ve all heard about STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) — and its importance to our economy. Elementary school educators need to be generalists, being instructors of all content area topics. But when it comes to STEM, problems arise in that (1) they often don’t feel comfortable teaching STEM related lessons and (2) society ask them to focus more on language and math (only the “M” of STEM). So how to instill a lifelong love of STEM in kindergarten and primary school?
STEM education is active and focuses on a student-centered learning environment. Students engage in questioning, problem solving, collaboration, and hands-on activities while they address real life issues. In STEM education, teachers function as classroom facilitators. They guide students through the problem-solving process and plan projects that lead to mastery of content and STEM proficiency. STEM proficient students are able to answer complex questions, investigate global issues, and develop solutions for challenges and real world problems while applying the rigor of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content in a seamless fashion. STEM proficient students are logical thinkers, effective communicators and are technologically, scientifically, and mathematically literate (Maryland State STEM Standards of Practice Framework).
To nurture a proficient STEM student, STEM education needs to be a priority long before a child reaches high school. Starting STEM development in early years at Kindergarten and primary school would help to challenge the current belief among schoolchildren that these subjects were difficult and only led down a specific career path such as “being a scientist”, when actually STEM subjects “open up a variety of career options.” (STEM skills should be ‘integrated across the curriculum, Telegraph UK)
STEM is naturally engaging and exciting especially for junior learners. From our observations:
- students love hands-on and interactive STEM activities. Kids have a natural interest and curiosity in exploring how things work.
Given a student-centric instructional setting where students are presented with open-ended STEM problems, the kids easily jump into the activities, work together, and share ideas with one another.
students express joy in doing the activities. They find them fun!
Teachers in Kindergarten and Primary School are in the unique position of being with their learners most of the day. This enables them to integrate cross-curricular learning activities.
So much would be gained if all teachers—art, music, reading, social studies, math and science—were able to spend some of their precious professional development time on STEM. The principles of STEM—critical thinking, asking good questions, observation and exploration—are truly at the heart of every discipline. . School-wide STEM learning would enable teachers to work together to create unified curricular units that weave STEM concepts into every subject in a meaningful way. (STEM: It’s Elementary!, We are Teachers)
What to do, who to lead, when to start, where to go and why not later are questions from the field. We are happy to share our experience on STEM education.
Check out our School Program page for more information!