Playing and Learning through STEM

Playing and Learning through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in Early Years

Engaging children early with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is a valuable and natural way to spark children’s curiosity and natural desire to learn about the world around them. Our Pre-school Supervisor, Sarah, has recently delivered staff training to support the team with STEM and the positive impact this can have on children’s learning and development.

“STEM is a way of thinking about how educators at all levels – including parents – should be helping students integrate knowledge across disciplines, encouraging them to think in a more connected and holistic way” (Sneidman, 2013)

Children learn about STEM through play and daily interactions with the world, as they make predictions and test theories about the world around them. Children’s learning is strengthened when they learn the same skills, ideas, and concepts in different contexts.

The experiences children have during the early years are vitally important and we see an important part of our role at nursery to further create opportunities that promote exciting learning opportunities in a fun and safe environment.

To be able to implement and embed STEM within our nursery, it is crucial that our team have on going CPD sessions and training that enables them to provide outstanding teaching and learning opportunities for all children as well as supporting their own continuing professional development, so Sarah’s training provided further opportunities to practice this.

There were lots of practical elements to session where staff were in teams and provided with resources and a prompt or question, such as “How can you get the water from the jug to the bucket”. This reflects children’s active, participatory role in learning where the role of the adult is to extend learning during planned and child-led play and allows us as adults, to explore the teaching opportunities in simple STEM challenges during play.

At Townhouse, we always gather feedback following training to help us ensure it is valuable and will have a positive impact on children’s learning. Here’s some feedback from the team following Sarah’s STEM training:
“Sarah was amazing, with a vast knowledge of STEM, her passion for the subject made it interesting and fun. The practical parts of the session made for an engaging and highly motivating evening. I now have lots of ideas and activities to take back to the Toddler 2 room” (Becky).

Recently all the rooms in the setting have been full of STEM activities from babies to pre-school and the impact that this has had on the children’s learning and development has been evident through our latest tracking of children’s progress in this area.

Here’s Isaac enjoying his STEM activity:
“Isaac is thoroughly enjoying this activity, using the toothbrush to spread the shaving foam across the building blocks. Once applied, he places a block on the top to eventually create a tall tower. Isaac continues spreading and building for several minutes with lots of concentration and satisfaction “Look it tall tower” he tells me, continuing until the tower falls. “Oh no” he says and picks up another block and places it onto the tower in a different place.”

As a nursery we are encouraging parents to get involved in STEM and the team have created some home link bags for the children to take home. We are looking forward to seeing parents sharing their experiences on their online learning journals (Tapestry).

Links to further reading:
http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/talk-read-sing/stem-toolkit-preschool-teachers.pdf
http://www.education.wa.edu.au/stem-in-early-childhood

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