STEM, STEAM, STREAM… these acronyms are big buzz words in the world of education. But can STEM and preschoolers go together?
The idea behind STEM (science, technology, engineering & math), STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art & math) and STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, art & math) is to educate students in these disciplines in a cohesive way (rather than singularly).
The focus placed on STEM in the classroom is also due to a lack of people going to school for and getting trained for STEM-related jobs.
While the main reasoning sounds good enough for educators to take some time to focus on STEM, that’s not why it is important to me and my preschoolers.
The biggest WHY I have in providing STEM opportunities for my students is Intellectual Learning.
Lilian Katz (an awesome early education trailblazer) wrote about the difference between Academic Learning and Intellectual Learning in an article called Lively Minds.
She explains Academic Learning as those things that we learn by memorization, drills and practice. Academic learning focuses on one correct answer. For example, learning the names and sounds of letters. Identifying shapes, saying the alphabet song or name writing.
In contrast, Lilian explains Intellectual Learning as learning that “addresses the life of the mind in its fullest sense.” The type of skills used during intellectual learning are skills like reasoning, predicting, hypothesizing and problem solving.
I do believe that there is a need for both types of learning in a preschool classroom.
However, seeing as our young children are already curious beings, ready to explore their world… I also believe Intellectual Learning should be the larger focus. Which is exactly why I adore play-based learning.
When we help our children develop Intellectual-based skills we aren’t just readying them for kindergarten- we are readying them for life.
Free Play is the best way for children to learn intellectual skills. Play is the vehicle in which to provide opportunities for children to reason, problem solve and try out solutions.
But, if you want to take it one step further… try some STEM Challenges. STEM Challenges also flex those intellectual skills in a fun, engaging way.
The benefits are big!
The STEM Challenges that I created for my class include challenges in all four areas of STEM.
Along with the challenge instructions, I also created vocabulary cards to help my students learn new words that go with the challenge. Each challenge also has a challenge prompt, a way to set up the challenge and create a scenario.
If you are looking for some challenges to do with your students, you can check the ones I created here!