The use of STEM has become central to every curriculum around us. From preschool children to university graduates, everyone is improving their STEM skills for intellectual, social, emotional, and professional growth.
STEM serves as a stepping stone for children in preschool and above to help young minds become curious about the world around them. Innovative learning methods are being used to teach children about the natural objects and technological aids around them to solve real-world complex issues. Let us explore learning approaches used to teach STEM skills to children.
Project-based Inquiry Learning (PIL) helps develop higher-order thinking skills in children while using object-based technology to communicate their work independently or in teams. Students learn by asking questions in the inquiry phase and using information searching during the exploration phase. The open-ended approach of project-based learning can foster analytical, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills in children.
Projects are often designed using everyday objects such as ice cream sticks, toothpicks, clay, play-doh, cardboard, crayons, blocks, bricks, and other accessories. The enrichment classes in Nassau County by Mindnasium focus on project-based learning to help children develop STEM-based skills. Some typical projects include building toy rockets and spaceships to learn engineering principles, material science, aerodynamics, and trajectories. Likewise, making a water filtration plant, growing plants through seeds, and cleanup projects help us learn about the environment, natural growth functions, sustainability, and community work.
Other fun activities during winter include observing snowflakes to understand the natural geometry and shape around us while assessing how the marine fall in temperature impacts the environment and marine life around us.
Makerspaces for STEM knowledge-building
Makerspaces are do-it-yourself (DIY) spaces with materials and tools for children to do cool STEM projects. These learning labs provide active learning opportunities beyond textbooks. Made from sturdy and modular furniture, these functional labs allow children to move around and work as collaborative teams to solve real-world problems. The project-based learning experience helps develop resilience, adaptability, spatial learning, creativity, experimentation, socialization, and critical thinking skills.
Some materials used to make a functional maker space include papers, glue, colors, scissors, cardboard, and other accessories that children use to complete projects such as windmills, suspension bridges, closed circuit lightning bugs, brush bots, mobile solar systems, dancing puppet, cloud in a jar, zip line transporter, pentominoes, and more. These projects assist children in learning about the joy of building things and how engineering, combined with creativity and math skills, can solve real-world problems.
Scientific modeling is the mathematical and conceptual representation of scientific events and processes. Children learn about spatial, descriptive, representational, and mathematical models through hands-on projects, inquiry, and observations.
LEGO-based activities are critical for developing spatial intelligence in children. As children use blocks and bricks to create 2D and 3D shapes, vehicles, bridges, architectural models, and scenarios, they gain an understanding of symmetry, stability, architectural, and geometric principles. Aside from LEGO, Tegu Blocks, Geomag, and Manga Tiles also provide magnetic and wooden blocks to improve fine motor skills and creativity, which is crucial for STEM-based learning.
Mathematical modeling activities are important to help children understand mathematical concepts. Basic arithmetic and algebraic concepts can be learned through number lines and objects, such as adding and subtracting biscuits and apples to count those remaining. Likewise, building a fruit salad can teach children about measuring and scales. Making a healthy food salad will require analyzing nutritional content, protein, and vitamins per serving while children also learn about the environment and our climate, as some fruits are seasonal and need special conditions to grow. Such activities help children learn mathematical models and refine their thinking skills.
Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)
Technology-enhanced learning (TEL) provides a stable pathway for kids to acclimate to STEM education and improve their computation thinking. Although computational thinking requires children to become fluent in computer programming, many application and game-based educational programs teach children coding in a fun and engaging manner. Coding classes for kids help learn through multi-dimensional and iterative processes while strengthening their problem-solving skills using algorithmic thinking and data models.
Many parents think coding from an early age is not necessary for children, but it has become visible that computational thinking is essential for future cognitive growth. Game-based coding platforms like Scratch help children learn loops, sequencing, and conditional logic by rearranging visual blocks of code. Likewise, Kodable teaches concepts of computer science, coding, debugging, and process-based algorithms through intuitive puzzles and coding challenges. Kodable also provides an intuitive game design and development guide so children can use their creativity to design their games and imaginary characters.
STEM education and learning prepare children for self-discovery and decision-making using mathematical, engineering, and scientific methods. As children think as scientists, they find innovative solutions to everyday problems. Technology is equally important to help children learn and communicate their ideas. While preparing children for the future, STEM also develops research, productivity, team building, and collaboration skills critical for social mobility and bringing change to this ever-evolving world.