Early Childhood and STEM Learning

‘STEM’ has become a buzzword in both the job market and in education. Most of us know that STEM refers to a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Most of us are also aware of the hot jobs available in STEM fields—this year alone it is projected that 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfulfilled [1]. But, what exactly is STEM, why is it important, and what does it look like in the classroom?

What is STEM learning?
STEM learning isn’t just a focus on the four STEM disciplines within the classroom setting. STEM in education embraces an interdisciplinary and applied approach to education. STEM learning is collaborative and project-based. Students work closely together with hands-on activities to solve real-world problems. A STEM curriculum stresses science, technology, engineering, and math, but there is still an important emphasis on other subjects such as reading and the arts. The interdisciplinary quality of STEM allows for the teacher and the learners to incorporate all subjects when working on a project or solving a problem in the classroom.

Why is STEM important in education?
Researchers have discovered a powerful link between STEM and early childhood [2]. When children learn STEM skills early on they are better prepared for school and future careers- not just in STEM fields, but in all careers. Concepts at the heart of STEM – curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking—are in demand [3]. It’s getting harder to define STEM careers as the job market grows and STEM will continue to evolve over time, but it isn’t going anywhere.

What does STEM look like in classrooms of preschoolers and kindergartners?
STEM learning is all about collecting data, developing strategies, solving problems, and learning to adjust the approach when things don’t go as expected [2]. Young children are natural scientists. They’re inquisitive, persistent, and curious. They take to project-based learning easily because it’s how they’ve been figuring things out since infancy. By picking things up, putting things down, asking why; tasting, smelling, and watching everything and anything in sight babies and young children are taking in new information and analyzing it [4]. This natural way of exploring the world is nurtured and developed inside of a STEM curriculum so learners not only maintain but sharpen these STEM learning skills and abilities.

Who is STEM for?
STEM is important for all children and for all subject areas. It’s a common myth that STEM is only for certain kinds of kids who may be naturally gifted or driven in STEM subjects [2], but the applied nature of STEM learning is inclusive for all learners.

What are the benefits of a STEM curriculum?
Research has shown that high-quality preschool and kindergarten reduces the rate of children being held back a grade by half; decreases juvenile arrests by a third; and increases high school attendance by a third, college attendance by 80%, and employment by 23%. Research confirms that the brain is particularly receptive to learning math and logic between the ages of 1 and 4, and that early math skills are the most powerful predictors of later learning [2].

JD Chesloff, chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care, writes, “High quality early learning environments provide children with a structure in which to build upon their natural inclination to explore, build, and to question.” [4]

STEM at St. Robert Catholic School
St. Robert Catholic School will offer a faith-filled Catholic environment where students will be empowered to become the person God created them to be. Students will explore and learn about the world following a STEM curriculum. They will demonstrate understanding and high-level thinking through projects, portfolios, journals, and formal assessments.

To request more information about St. Robert Catholic School, to enroll your student, or for more information, please contact us today.

Sources:
[1] https://ssec.si.edu/stem-imperative 
[2] https://www.commonsense.org/education/blog/4-things-everyone-should-know-about-early-stem-learning 
[3] https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/03/06/23chesloff.h32.html
[4] https://www.idtech.com/blog/why-is-stem-important/

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