STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math. STEM Education is a term initiated by the National Science Foundation and refers to an educational approach which integrates more than one of these disciplines.
We are able to teach this naturally through play because children at this age do STEM on their own naturally while they play. For example, while they are building with the blocks, playing with the cars and race tracks, digging for worms, or mixing paints at the art table. We, as teachers, help enhance this by providing new activities and materials in the classroom and outdoors. When children have new materials, they are naturally curious to explore and learn about how they work. SO, the more we supply preschoolers with items to explore, the more they will explore.
How can you encourage STEM activities at home? You are probably already doing STEM activities at home and may just not realize it. Here are some examples of some easy things to do during your daily family routine:
• When you take your child to the grocery store, you can look for some new fruits or vegetables to try. You can do some predicting and ask your child what they think the inside of the fruit or vegetable will look like, taste like, or feel like (science.) You and your child could then decide how to open the fruit or vegetable (engineering.) Once you have the fruit or vegetable prepared, you can cut it into pieces and count, add, or do fractions while you eat (math.)
• Making dinner is another great time to incorporate STEM. Children can help you look for what to make for dinner on the computer (technology.) Once you find your recipe, you can measure out all of your ingredients (math.) While you are preparing your food, you can talk to your child about what will happen to the food while it cooks (science.)
• Playing with Legos. When playing with Legos, children have to experiment with the base to make the structures sturdy (engineering.) You can supply your child with pictures of already built structures to see if they can match some of those structures (math.) Or supply your child with a camera so they can take pictures of the things they build so they can build it again of share what they built with others (technology.)
• STEM at bath time. So many opportunities when it comes to learning with water play. Maybe turn down the lights and play some soft music while your child is in the tub and see if it makes a difference in bath time (technology.) Add some bubbles or color to your bath water and ask your child what they think will happen when you do this (science.) Supply your child with funnels and containers with small openings. Children will have to experiment how to get the water into the container (engineering.) You can also add a larger container for filling. Your child can see how many smaller containers full of water it takes to fill up the larger container (math.)
STEM has so many benefits.
"The link between early childhood and STEM is indisputable. Early exposure to STEM - whether it be in school, at a museum, a library, or just engaging in the natural trial and error of play - supports children's overall academic growth, develops early critical thinking and reasoning skills, and enhances later interest in STEM study and careers."- JD Chesloff