What is STEM Learning?


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During the past few years, the term STEM learning has been a focus of discussion, particularly here in Silicon Valley where science education is highly valued. There is a broad understanding that incorporating STEM into your curriculum will help set children up for success in elementary school, high school and into adulthood. But what does STEM learning look like in the early learning environment?

What is STEM?

According to Live Science, “STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.” This means, that instead of simply teaching each of these subjects to students, lessons are based on children’s own inquiries, similar to the way that we problem solve in our daily lives.

STEM encourages curiosity and hands-on learning, forming the foundation for skills that children will be able to apply in the real world.

STEM vs. STEAM

STEAM adds an additional component, the arts, into STEM learning. Edweek explains that the arts are a way to explore “more diverse learning opportunities and greater access to STEM for all types of learners.”

As educators, our responsibility is to educate the whole child, including their ability to express creativity. We can incorporate the arts into STEM projects by allowing children to use their right-brain artistic creativity in design and planning. This will allow children to generate more innovative thinking.

STEM in the Classroom  

If you are interested in incorporating STEM activities into your classroom, view our list below for some fun and easy ideas to get started:

  • Lemon Volcanoes: Ana of Babble Dabble Do shares how to use a lemon, baking soda, food coloring, and a few other ingredients to make a colorful, fragrant volcano! While the preparation of the lemon will need to be done by an adult, children will be able to help create the volcanic eruption.

  • Egg Geodes: Rachelle of Tinkerlab shares how to use eggs, salt, and borax to make geodes. This project will take about 5 days to complete, as children observe and discuss the changes that occur each day.

  • Magic Milk: Click here to view a video that shows how Michelle of Crafty Morning uses milk, food coloring, and a q-tip dipped in dish soap to create a colorful work of art.

Another great way to start encouraging children to think about STEM ideas and concepts is to introduce some of these ideas through books. Some of our favorites are listed below:

  • Rosie Revere, Engineer: This book is a great read for young scientists in preschool and pre-k. If you enjoy this story, you might also enjoy some of the other books in this series, including Ada Twist, Scientist and Iggy Peck, Architect.

  • What do you do with an Idea? This book’s inspiring story tells about a child who brings an idea into the world. This story about facing challenging problems and finding confidence in our ideas will be enjoyed by children in preschool and pre-k.

  • Pantone Colors: This colorful book provides a way to incorporate art into your STEM curriculum. The book explores the many shades of basic colors, and is available in a board book so it is a great read for toddlers and young preschoolers.

  • The Most Magnificent Thing: A story about creativity and perseverance, this story will be enjoyed by preschoolers and might even inspire them to make something magnificent of their own!

For more STEM and STEAM ideas, visit Good2Know Network’s Pinterest!

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