Had the pleasure of being part of the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota 2017 Conference in January. I presented two 1.5 hour STEM-based sessions. Early childhood teachers were introduced to STEM practices and content via conducting hands-on-minds-on, inquiry-based explorations.
There was plenty of room to explore, build, and move about with the workshops being held in the cafeteria. Ramps made out of insulation tubing, wood corner molding, upholstery tubing, string and tape were built from one end of the cafeteria to the other.
During the 1.5 hour session early childhood teachers were introduced to incorporating journaling in the early childhood classroom. I stressed the need to avoid the “typical” handouts of cut outs, tracing, and pasting. Instead, provide opportunities for children to do their own scribbling, attach specimens within their journals, and more. This journal is meaningful to the student, and is all about student-ownership.
Teachers had the opportunity to use recyclable and readily available materials to build 3-D structures of their choice. Working in small groups mini-playgrounds, homes, bridges and more were built.
Teachers were also introduced to incorporating a “tinkering” center within their classroom where young children can touch, observe, analyze, and take things apart. If possible, even try and put the objects back together. The process of tinkering is the foundation of creating young engineers. We all know the relative that took everything apart, tinkered and such they went onto become an engineer.
With the emphasis on incorporating STEM experiences in the early childhood classroom and beyond, many children’s authors have written well-crafted STEM-based books appropriate for the early childhood classroom +. Teachers were introduced to approximately 50 children’s books with STEM themes, a couple of my favorites “Iggy Peck the Architect” and the “Three Little Pigs, an Architectural Tale”.
Teachers were also introduced to incorporating appropriate technology for young learners. The “t” in STEM includes any tool a student puts in their hand to gather more data, and find out about the world around them. Teachers used levels, rulers, magnifying lenses, eye loupes, Fisher Price Code-A-Pillar, and more.
A major focus of the early childhood STEM workshop was to incorporate the 21st century skills within STEM lessons and across the curriculum. Teachers need to strive to develop lessons and a classroom environment that nurtures and strengthens 21st century skills which include: creativity and innovation, critical thinking and innovation, communication and collaboration.
As always it was a great session, teachers left the workshop motivated, and so many stated that they were going to be incorporating many of the STEM explorations and practices they had seen during the training within their classroom. As I’ve said before “it’s never to early to incorporate STEM experiences ” within the classroom.