Nursery School Column: Making STEAM from STEM


By Catherine Neiswonger

Catherine Neiswonger

The buzz about STEM education has educators looking for ways to include more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math into their daily curriculum. STEAM integrates arts into the STEM curriculum to help children express STEM concepts. Since the arts are a natural part of early childhood education, adding this element may help more teachers find ways to approach STEM concepts.

Each discipline of STEAM helps your child grow and navigate through everyday challenges. Most significantly, by promoting problem-solving and creative and analytical thinking. Activities build upon children’s natural curiosity and interest to know how and why things work. For this reason, among others, it is never too early to begin introducing STEAM learning to your child.

Round Hill Nursery School has created a STEAM inspired classroom for its students.

The “Imagination Station” classroom will provide space to explore, investigate, pursue their curiosities, and draw conclusions about how things work, how to build or develop, and how to improve their designs. Children will work in small groups on teacher-directed, child-initiated, and teacher-facilitated projects. They will have opportunities to engage in in-depth, long term studies that will complement what is happening in their classroom.

Research has demonstrated that the drive to explore, interact, and observe in human beings begins in early childhood, long before middle and high school, and even before elementary school. The nation’s economy is moving toward technologically based industries, creating growth in demand for workers proficient in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The bonus is that STEAM instruction improves abilities in subjects outside of STEAM, including literacy, language-learning, math, and executive functioning.

There are a lot of reasons why STEAM studies are essential, not the least of which is the United States is falling behind in scientific innovation. Consider the jobs that affect our economy that include STEAM subjects: Accounting, architecture, medical research, and environmental studies all involve science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEAM occupations have grown in the last ten years three times faster than non-STEAM occupations. America’s STEAM workforce is crucial for generating new ideas, receiving and commercializing patents, and providing the flexibility and critical thinking required in the modern economy.

Families do not need to wait to introduce a child to STEAM learning. Introducing STEAM learning can begin simply by pointing out why and how things in our everyday lives work. For example, when something falls to the ground, explain to your child that the object fell due to gravity. Families can also try different activities at home that focus on these five disciplines.

Science

Science does not need to be taught through a textbook or through the lab work that some families may remember participating in school. There are so many fun, creative activities that can be done right at home to engage your child in learning more about this discipline.

Activities can include:

1. Grow plants from seeds in a jar

2. Make magnetic slime

3. Create your child’s name out of crystals

Technology

Technology is all around us and is rapidly progressing each day. These STEAM activities not only promote a STEAM discipline but also help prepare a child for their future and the types of skills they will need in their everyday lives.

Activities can include:

1. Learn about space using the NASA data from their website

2. Programs or games that help develop typing skills

3. Practice reading, writing or math skills through a fun, educational app

Engineering

Many children are already taking part in fun engineering activities on a daily because children love to build and create. Here are some excellent engineering activity ideas outside of the typical building activities.

Activities can include:

1. Design and create straw bridges

2. Create a conveyor belt

3. Design a structure out of cups, sticks, and blocks and test balance

Art and Design

The newest discipline to be added to this specific focus of education calls for children to not only be analytical but creative as well during the process.

Activities can include:

1. Research what happens when mixing watercolors and oils

2. Determine how plants absorb water with food coloring

3. Dip dye craft sticks to build structures with

Mathematics

Your child will use math in their everyday lives, and just like technology it is essential that families still encourage activities that promote learning about mathematics, so children have the proper tools and knowledge they need in life.

Activities can include:

1. Practice different ways to add numbers and come to the same answer

2. Learn about odd numbers and even numbers

3. Learn about different coins and bills and how to add them

Families should always remember that these disciplines go hand in hand, and they will find that activities that promote STEM and STEAM learning will involve more than one focus of learning. 

Catherine Neiswonger is the Director at Round Hill Nursery School, which provides early learning opportunities for children 2-5 years age. ww.rhns.org. She has been an educator of young children and adults for over 30 years.

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