STEM

Resource

The name of the resource is the “NSTA Position Statement: Early Childhood Science Education”. The National Science Teachers Association Board of Directors released the statement on January 2014

 

Overall Idea and Relevance

The overall idea of the resource that the NSTA is stating is that young children in the 3 years to preschool age group can learn science and engineering practices in a way that fosters their inquisitiveness and delight in the exploration of the world. This intellectual state can then provide a basis for growth in the learning of scientific subjects in the K-12 school setting and for the rest of their lives. Hence, the NSTA is encouraging both teachers and parents/guardians to expose children in this age group to experiences that stimulate and encourage scientific inquiry through everyday experiences.

“It is important that adults support children’s play and also direct their attention, structure their experiences, support their learning attempts, and regulate the complexity and difficulty of levels of information” (NSTA, 2014).

This idea is closely related to the unit under study which focuses on early childhood education in science, technology, engineering, or math because it encourages the adults who have young children around them to make the learning process an exciting, every day and ongoing experience. The statement points out that several studies exist which prove that children in the preschool age group have the capability of not only undertaking scientific practices in ordinary conditions but also comprehending scientific ideas at a conceptual level. This means that they can engage in reasoning and inquiry, to investigate and understand how the world around them works. Furthermore, the statement asserts that children can also structure and explain what they pick during scientific learning while distinguishing concrete from abstract ideas. These concepts are relevant for this unit because its focus is on how to teach young children subjects such as science, technology, engineering and math.

Important Idea

The idea important idea that immediately clicked for me was the fact that preschool children require various opportunities to undertake science learning, inquiry and comprehension because they stimulate and improve their science skills in both formal settings like school and informal settings like home. The fact that children sharpen their science skills when given several opportunities struck me because of the old adage ‘repetition is the mother of study’ that I often linked to more advanced levels of study and learning. This should have been readily obvious to me because the rote learning engaged in most aspects of early childhood are a form of multiple and continuous exposure that the statement is promoting with respect to science learning. This is evident because repeated exposure to scientific learning gives the children a chance to recognize patterns, form ideas surrounding the patterns and distinguish between concrete and abstract ideas.

Furthermore, this situation of multiple exposure works in both formal and informal environments, making the learning process a continues experience that can take place throughout a child’s waking moments, whether in a formally organized activity like classroom studies or an informal activity like playtime at home with friends. This creates the opportunity for early childhood teachers to structure lessons in a manner that enables the child to actively hunt for opportunities to engage science learning both at home and in school i.e. by incorporating ordinary, everyday items and materials into lessons that the child can continue enjoying even at home, away from school.  As a STEM teacher, I would provide the children with enjoyable exercises for school and home settings which stimulate inquiry and investigation to ensure their science education is continuous and involving.

Impact on Thinking

This resource has changed my thinking from a position of placing great emphasis on formal learning to appreciating the role that informal activities can play in the learning process for preschoolers. My initial assumption was that scientific learning in that age group should be very gentle and formal, at the hands of trained and professional instructors. I viewed STEM subjects as complex studies that must be under the guidance of people who have a formal and comprehensive understanding of the early childhood learning process. Little did I know that even the household setting is a learning avenue that can enrich and reinforce what a child picks in school. In addition, even parents who never stepped into any college can effectively guide their children in scientific learning through the use of ordinary activities like playing, cooking, cleaning, etc. The household is just as important a learning venue as the classroom and school. Which opens vast opportunities in terms of stimulating children’s interest in subjects that they naturally like and want to pursue.

This realization compels me to involve parents in the teaching process through structured home assignments and to structure classroom exercises in a way that children can relate to their home setting easily.

 

References

National Science Teachers Association. (2014). NSTA position statement: Early childhood science education. Science and Children51(7), 10-12.

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