There is a popular belief, backed by scientific studies, that children learn faster than adults. Thus, there is a lot of emphasis on early education as parents try to get their children a jump ahead in the learning curve.
Pre-schools, parents, and early education experts often focus on developing language skills (verbal and written), communication skills, artistic abilities, etc. But, more often than not, there is little to no emphasis on STEM learning. Wait, what? Isn’t it too early for young children to learn about STEM? As it turns out, there are a lot of benefits of introducing STEM at an early age. In this article, we will discuss why STEM is important for early learners and also delve on ways to introduce STEM in the learning curriculum.
Why STEM is important for early learners?
Catching them young:
One thing that is common in almost every athlete’s story is that they were all introduced to sports at a very young age. Not just sports, but anything that catches the eye of young children can be turned into their passion with proper nurturing and motivation. Similarly, early introduction to STEM can be instrumental in developing the interest of a child towards the subject and can have a huge impact in shaping his/her future. Being a teacher, I often find students in higher grades have little interest in STEM education, and they often brush it off as boring lessons. Had they been introduced to STEM in their early learning years, students might have acquired an interest in STEM subjects and will be more inclined to pursue their education in the field of STEM.
2. Choosing the right role models:
For young children, more often than not, parents and teachers become their role models. And if they are blessed with a parent/teacher who is excited and enthusiastic about STEM, they develop an early interest in STEM subjects too. With the right kind of STEM role models, children will grow up feeling fascinated towards science and technology, and that will eventually lead to more takers for STEM in higher education.
Making STEM fun:
Let’s face it. STEM lessons are often complex and our standard curriculum doesn’t allow much scope to have fun with these complicated subjects. Students in higher grades are expected to read textbooks extensively in order to grasp intricate concepts. But, when STEM is introduced as a part of the kindergarten curriculum, there are a lot of fun activities children can indulge in and have fun. Fun experiments like making hot ice or making a tornado in a jar can be an enjoyable experience for children, leaving them in awe of science. Once they can relate STEM with fun, their attitude towards STEM will gradually change and would result in better focus in future STEM lessons.
How to introduce STEM to early learners?
When we think about STEM, we think of scientific laws, theories, complex equations, and what not. But while introducing STEM to early learners, you have to think simple. Since many parents/teachers are clueless about integrating STEM to early learning curriculum, here are a few ways one can initiate STEM learning for young children:
- Play-based curriculum: At the age of 3-6, playing constitutes a major part of learning. Hence, there is no better way to introduce STEM than making it a part of the play-based curriculum. Building games that involve children assembling various parts of a structure are not just engaging and fun, but it also enhances their spatial awareness. Abacus is an excellent way to introduce Math to children while ensuring some colourful fun. Interesting science activities also fall into the category of fun-based learning.
- Fun apps: Nowadays, most children show great affinity to mobile apps and games. Why not direct them towards apps that flourish STEM acumen? Apps like SimpleRockets and Odd Bot Out develop an eye for design and structure that are essential components of STEM learning.
- Exploring STEM outside of the classroom: It is not a bad idea to spark the curiosity of children by taking them to science museums and planetariums. Even a simple stroll in the park introduces children to various species of flora and fauna. There is so much that kids can learn from observing their surrounding. But the key here is to stimulate the inquisitive nature of children. The more they ask questions about STEM, the more they will learn about STEM.
To conclude, I would like to mention the need for balance between STEM and non-STEM subjects. From kindergarten to middle school, a lot of importance is given to subjects like English, Math, Geography, and History. But from high school onwards, there is a sudden emphasis on STEM. This sudden shift in focus makes it difficult for students to cope with. So, it is highly important to start STEM learning at a young age to have a balanced education.
Alan is an online STEM tutor, teaching K-12 students. His love for Physics has prompted him to start blogging. You can check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.