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BLOG: Full STEM Ahead! (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)

Written by: Jenne Parks

June 9, 2020

What is a cloud? Why do boats float? How does a car work? Young children have an innate ability to ask questions like this every day, in fact, researchers estimate that preschoolers ask an amazing 76 information-seeking questions per hour?! Since curiosity is at the heart of all innovation, the earlier we help children harness and direct their interest in exploring the world around them, the more motivated they will be to uncover the answers!

In addition, research shows that young children are especially receptive to STEM education, and according to the Center for Childhood Creativity, “even before a child’s first birthday, she is capable of making inferences, drawing conclusions about cause and effect, and reasoning about the probability of events.” If developed and encouraged, these skills can act as the foundation for the growth of abstract reasoning essential to excelling in any STEM-related field.

STEM is made-up of four disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, all of which are important for several reasons:

  • STEM education is backed by research (and therefore, it just makes sense!)
  • STEM education helps children better understand the world, and how to relate to it
  • STEM helps children live the concepts (through games and activities)
  • Some STEM concepts are “real-life” problems, which makes it necessary to find the best solution to overcome the problems and that, in turn, inculcates creativity, innovativeness, and problem-solving skills (the must-have skills of the 21st century)!
  • Then comes memory! The application of STEM learning caters to the importance of memory retention, in that when children themselves practice something or experience something, their chances of remembering that event is more probable than when they are told (and/or when they read) something. Research indicates that knowledge retention through traditional learning is 5%, whereas, through STEM learning (implemented in an age/developmentally appropriate manner) it goes up to 90%!

However, to provide the most effective STEM activities and instruction, this begins with the ACT OF PLAY!!

This week’s Family Connection experiences focus purely on easy-to-follow and implement STEM activities for each of the four disciplines and following you will find additional STEM-based learning experiences you and your child can enjoy together!

Happy Learning!!

STEM

Magical Ice Melt

Work with your child to demonstrate “change of state” by melting ice with salt! Invite your child to work with you to fill a bowl with water, and explain that the water will go in the freezer (ask, “What will happen if we leave water in the freezer overnight?”). If you have food-coloring handy, encourage your child to add a few drops to the ice, and then remove the ice from the bowl (and place it on a tray or a large plate). Invite your child to shake salt over the ice and sit back to watch the magic happen! As you and your child high-five over this cool scientific experiment, talk with him/her about the properties of the water, ice, and salt (that made the changes happen).

Will it Float or Sink?

Fill a small tub with water and invite your child to gather objects from around your house or yard and place them in the tub (make sure they are water safe first!). Encourage your child to experiment with the objects to determine what sinks and what floats. Increase the difficulty by asking your child to predict what will happen before each object enters the water.

Flower Dissection

Children are naturally curious about their natural surroundings, so invite your child to practice a little botany and/or plant science while dissecting the flower. Encourage your child to talk about the different flower parts she discovers (petals, stem, stigma, stamen, pollen tube, etc.).

Building Bridges

Use recyclables and household objects to see who among you can build the strongest bridge! Challenge your child to build ramps, roads, and tunnels too!

Engineer with Marshmallow Shapes

Develop engineering skills while constructing basic shapes out of toothpicks and marshmallows! Invite your child to join you in using marshmallows as the connectors (to hold toothpicks together). Challenge your child to invent new shapes, build three-dimensional shapes, make castles or cars, or whatever creations come to mind!

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