While the importance of K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education has long been promoted by both educators and the U.S. Department of Education, the benefits of this type of innovative learning for preschool aged children receive comparatively less attention. One of the main reasons for this is the assumption that preschool aged students are not developed enough to explore STEM activities, topics and themes.
Preschoolers As Effective STEM Learners
Research has shown that young children are receptive to STEM education, and according to the Center for Childhood Creativity, “even before a child’s first birthday, she is capable of making inferences, drawing conclusions about cause and effect, and reasoning about the probability of events.” If developed and encouraged, these skills can act as the foundation for the growth of abstract reasoning essential to excelling in any STEM-related field.
Preschool aged children are effective STEM learners due to their innate sense of wonder and curiosity. In fact, researchers estimate that preschoolers ask an amazing 76 information-seeking questions per hour. Because curiosity is at the heart of all innovation, the earlier parents can help children harness and direct this interest in exploring the world around them, the more motivated these students will be to uncover the answers they seek.
However, to provide the most effective STEM activities and instruction for preschoolers, it’s important that educators and administrators are aware of the most effective teaching strategies for this particular demographic. For preschool aged students, this begins with the act of play.
STEM Education Begins with Play
Though developmental psychologists have long praised the effectiveness of play in early education, increasingly, teachers and administrators feel pressured to follow policies which place a far greater importance on academic readiness and standardizes testing. While on its surface this might sound like a pragmatic approach, Atlantic reporter Erika Christakis’ article “The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids” depicts a far more troubling picture in line with what many preschool educators experience:
“Preschool classrooms have become increasingly fraught spaces, with teachers cajoling their charges to finish their ‘work’ before they can go play. And yet, even as preschoolers are learning more pre-academic skills at earlier ages, I’ve heard many teachers say that they seem somehow — is it possible? — less inquisitive and less engaged than the kids of earlier generations.”
In order for educators to reverse this trend and reengage the preschool aged students in their care, they must embrace play through active learning and develop both STEM skills and an excitement for learning.
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To learn more about how to provide the best STEM education for these young learners, we invite you to download our free white paper “The Benefits of STEM Education at the Preschool Level.”