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?