February 11, 2015
We’ve been hearing from our readers and educators about how much they love STEM and are trying to incorporate it into their classrooms and lessons. The four STEM disciplines are often considered staples in elementary, middle, and high school curriculum, but the early years are a great time to introduce children to the exciting world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Young children have a natural sense of curiosity. They build knowledge of the world as they explore and experiment.
We recently talked with Sally Moomaw, EdD, who has dedicated much of her research and work to STEM education. She’s the author of Teaching STEM in the Early Years which provides more than 85 engaging, developmentally appropriate activities to maximize children’s learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
To help students connect math and science to other contexts in their world Dr. Moomaw believes you should keep four teaching practices in mind as you build your curriculum.
- Intentional teaching: Always keep math and science goals in mind when designing activities and curriculum.
- Teach for understanding: Learning isn’t about reciting rules from memory. You want students to understand the concepts and connect them to real world experiences.
- Encourage inquiry: Math and science are subjects built on asking questions, hypothesizing, and recognizing the relationships. Make children comfortable exploring and questioning.
- Provide real-world contexts: Children can understand even complex ideas when you connect them to their real life. Turn trips outside into science lessons or blocks into an engineering lesson. They want to understand their world you just have to help them make the connections.
With these principles in mind, Dr. Moomaw shared three tips that you can use to help create a more STEM-friendly learning environment.
- Try to make every moment a STEM learning opportunity. No matter where you are in the classroom, there is an opportunity to focus children’s attention on something interesting related to math or science.
- Follow children’s ideas. If your goal was to plant seeds but children suddenly become fascinated with earthworms, follow their lead.
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you don’t know. Teachers and children can and should be co-investigators.
Each month we will be sharing a STEM activity as part of our STEM series to get you inspired for activities in your own room.
Tell us: What do you want to like about STEM? How do you already use it in your classroom?
February 5, 2015
Did you set New Year’s resolutions? Have you already broken them? This time of year seems to be the time to evaluate our values and who we want to be in this New Year. Many of us have a desire to make a difference, connect more deeply, and invest in a better future by becoming a better leader.
Maurice Sykes, educator and author, has been in the same place and taken the journey to being a leader and is inspiring others to do the same. As Maurice says:
We each are a composite of what we believe, how we understand things, and the actions we take. As a leader, it is critical that your core values – your guiding principles – inform your leadership beliefs, thoughts, and actions.
Everyone has a core set of values. It is important for you to identify and articulate your core values to yourself and be aware of how they influence your thoughts words, and deeds.
Doing the Right Thing for Children: Eight Qualities of Leadership
So what are your core values and where are they leading you? If you aren’t sure yet or need a place to start, here are Maurice’s recommendation:
- Belief in human potential: Recognize potential in others, both children and adults. Believe that there are no limits to a person’s potential with the right coaching, mentoring, and support. Have your eyes open to spot the hidden gifts inside others and nurture them into greatness.
- A love for knowledge: Have a hunger for knowledge and curiosity about a wide range of subjects. Desire to know more. Knowledge helps you understand the world around you, but also creates the self-knowledge needed to build strong relationships.
- Belief in social justice: “Be a mediator between the circumstances where one starts in life and where one ends” (Sykes,14). Believe in equality and strive to create a place where everyone can have a voice.
- Competence: Take your knowledge and put it into action. Have the confidence in your own potential and knowledge to create action towards goals that serve a greater good.
- Have fun: Lead with energy and enthusiasm and always remember to practice humility. As Maurice says “a broken spirit cannot lift another broken spirit”. Work should be fun and enjoyable; if it isn’t is it really worth doing? Value play not only for the children you work with, but for yourself and the adults in your life.
- Practice personal renewal: If you are worn out you cannot be effective at anything. Understand your own need for renewal physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually through simple enjoyment. Step away from time to time so you can bring your full self when you return.
- Believe in perseverance: Success rarely comes quickly and easily. If you have long-term goals you know you will face bumps in the road. Don’t’ give up and keep the vision of your goal in mind. The journey may not always be easy, but you will learn and grow as you go.
- Have courage: Know the mission and be willing to take bold steps for that purpose. There will be tough choices and you must be able to face them head on; even when that means taking responsibility for your actions.
You can find out more about these eight qualities and how to develop habits for becoming a better leader in Maurice Sykes’ new book Doing the Right Thing for Children. We are inspired to be better for ourselves and for those around us . . . what are you inspired to do?