STEM in the Early Years
Young children are naturally curious and have an innate desire to explore the world around them. When they explore their surroundings in a hands-on manner, this ignites questions and a need to investigate. This habit of questioning and trying new things lays the foundation for learning in early childhood and continues through the children’s lives.
STEM, is the exploration of the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These areas of learning are incorporated into the early learning program both in a planned and naturally-occurring way. They are also interconnected as children explore these disciplines in a multi-modal manner.
Incidental opportunities for the children to engage in STEM learning occur on a daily basis. The discovery of a butterfly in the garden can lead to a conversation and investigation into life cycles. Collaborative block building can become an engineering exercise as the children problem solve the height, weight, angles and balance of their building. An interest in the prehistoric world can be explored through research on the iPad. Play with natural materials and loose parts can lead to a mathematical experience in counting, sorting and classification.
Although STEM experiences can occur spontaneously within the classroom program, there are also experiences intentionally planned by our Early Learning educators. In St Catherine’s Early Learning Centre, our STEM learning experiences are linked to the children’s current projects and inquiries. When undertaking an inquiry into volcanoes, educators may plan a science experiment for the children to learn and experience how a volcano erupts. An investigation into the elements of winter may involve the children experimenting with melting ice and learning about liquids and solids. Opportunities for digital research are facilitated by educators and linked directly to the children’s current investigations. As an extension of our classroom STEM learning, the children in our 4-year-old classes also have opportunities to connect with the STEM Lab in St Catherine’s Junior School and our STEM expert, Mr Luke Russell.
Through our ‘Step into STEM’ program the children have been able to extend their classroom learnings by experiencing a range of connected STEM experiences in the STEM Lab and access STEM-specific equipment and resources. The children have begun exploring simple coding using the Beebots. They will also have the opportunity to engage in STEM experiences enabling them to explore the concepts of virtual reality, construction/engineering, electricity, sustainability and more.
Learning in the area of STEM occurs daily in our ELC through the children’s observations, explorations, investigations, experimentation and play. The children are naturally curious and amazed by the discoveries they make. This sparks a desire to investigate and a genuine love for learning.