Research supported by the National Science Foundation concludes that young children benefit from learning STEM subjects, which include Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, because these disciplines play a fundamental role in setting the foundations for future learning.
A report published by the Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) also recognizes and highlights the advantages of STEM in early childhood education.
The report recommends that greater emphasis be placed on STEM subjects in children’s early education and that these subjects should be viewed with the same importance now placed on acquiring literacy skills.
STEM Facilitates Language Development
STEM education and activities are thought to play a key role in the acquisition of language skills. When kids read books about science, for example, it can spark new areas of discussion around STEM. And what they’ve read may prompt children to plan and carry out an investigation to test a hypothesis, which is a crucial aspect of a scientific investigation.
Children would then be encouraged to discuss their hypotheses and results with one another, which develops both core literacy and comprehension skills. Clearly, literacy and STEM subjects complement each other.
STEM Encourages Independent and Collaborative Learning
As the report highlights, STEM education allows children to develop their communication and problem-solving skills, especially when they are actively encouraged to talk and write about their ideas and observations. This kind of rich educational environment also enables young children to develop concepts through investigative and explorative means.
Young children also benefit from STEM learning because they are generally naturally inquisitive and want to explore and make sense of themselves and the environment in which they live. What is more, even young children who are non-native speakers and are still learning the English language can benefit from STEM education. This is because they can participate in scientific explorations that do not demand a broad vocabulary.
An Overview of STEM in Practice
The report recommends that children should be introduced to these subjects before kindergarten and, then, teachers should allocate enough time to engage students in quality STEM learning at least until the third grade.
During this time, educators are required to establish and promote scientific and mathematical ways of thinking as well as opportunities to read, write, and discuss these subjects in detail.
Teaching STEM in the early years enables children to make those vital connections between everyday life and the STEM disciplines. It also lays down the foundations for future academic success because the skills learned are transferable to other subjects.
Learning Through Self Discovery
The report illustrates the importance of support strategies in early childhood education. These include:
- Treating all children as STEM learners and ensuring they have equal opportunities
- Actively listening to children and watching how they play and relate to one another
- Encouraging children to discuss and elaborate on both their ideas and findings
- Suggesting further investigations to test their ideas
Parents can ensure that their children are being exposed to STEM at home by encouraging independent thinking and by making connections between their experiences at school and at home.
For instance, asking a child what they learned in their science class that day or week will help to consolidate that learning experience as they explain and discuss the topic. Parents can then encourage their child to undertake a mini project relating to the topic at home to encourage independent thinking. This will show the child that STEM learning isn’t confined to the classroom.
Be sure your children receive all the benefits of STEM education at their school and at home. If you’re not happy with your child’s current school curriculum, consider an alternative. Online learning from home could benefit your family.