Young children are all blank canvases. They use their natural gift of curiosity to paint colourful scenes in their lives. In today's rapidly evolving world, parents should support their child’s curiosity with valuable and strong foundational tools, namely STEM education.
Standing for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” STEM assumes a pivotal role in nurturing children’s curiosity and genuine passion for learning. This article from UNIS Hanoi will serve as a useful key that leads parents to understand how to encourage STEM education in their child's life.
What is STEM Learning in Early Childhood?
Regarding learning at a young age, STEM, an acronym coined by educators in the early 1990s, involves integrating terms of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into a child's curriculum.
STEM education usually does not stay within basic school subjects. Instead, it tends to focus more on fostering versatile learning, creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking through realistic ventures. These activities unlock and boost children's:
- Exploration of the natural world.
- Engagement with technology and designing and construction of structures.
- Development of mathematical thinking skills.
An investigation in Turkey has found that preschool teachers strongly support STEM applications in early childhood education because they aim to build a strong intellectual foundation and promote "desirable school readiness." Furthermore, various studies have demonstrated that early exposure to STEM concepts enhances children's analytical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and ability to make connections across different areas of knowledge.
The Importance of STEM in Early Childhood
While the pros and cons of STEM education are still a highly debatable topic, the importance of incorporating STEM at the beginning of childhood has been widely shown to be very significant.
One of STEM learning’s exciting aspects for young minds is its focus on real-world applications. For instance, they might conduct simple science experiments to understand the properties of materials, engage in engineering challenges to construct sturdy structures, or use technology tools to explore the virtual realm. These experiences not only spark curiosity but also foster a sense of wonder and discovery in children.
STEM education is an advanced path to increasing the intelligence of children.
STEM education can also nurture vital, 21st-century-valued skills. By encouraging children to think critically, analyse problems from different perspectives, and develop innovative solutions, STEM learning can cultivate their ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing world. Moreover, the collaborative nature of STEM activities can prepare children for future workplace dynamics by promoting teamwork, communication, and the development of social skills.
More than that, STEM learning is a great inspiration for children's foundation of natural curiosity for the unknown and creativity in learning. Through STEM-related, open-ended challenges and hands-on projects, young kids can be empowered to explore, experiment, and think outside the box. They can learn to see an opportunity for growth in failures, to persevere through hardships, and to unleash their imagination to design innovative solutions.
How to Encourage STEM Education in Early Childhood in 5 Steps
Now that we understand the importance of STEM education in early childhood, let's explore five practical steps for improving STEM education in the minds of young ones.
Use Math Concepts during Conversations with Children
There are “countless” math concepts that parents can incorporate into everyday conversations with their children, for example, counting, discussing shapes, and comparing the sizes of mundane objects surrounding them. To increase the difficulty, they can be encouraged to solve simple math problems and be asked questions that prompt mathematical thinking.
By integrating math into their daily interactions, young children can develop a strong foundation in numeracy and problem-solving.
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Ask Open-Ended Questions
As parents, you can engage your child's curiosity by asking open-ended questions about their surroundings and encouraging them to observe, predict, and explain natural phenomena during said process. For example, during a walk in the park, ask them why they think leaves change colours in the fall or why birds build nests in trees.
Such questions stimulate scientific thinking and nurture their investigative skills.
Sharpening children’s ability to research is a must at young ages.
Adapt Interactive Activities and Games
Providing children with interactive activities and games that promote hands-on exploration like building blocks, puzzles, science kits, and coding games is an excellent and practical choice to incorporate STEM education at home. Remember to also engage with them during these ventures, guiding them and encouraging their creativity.
These activities encourage spatial reasoning, problem-solving, and logical thinking.
Incorporate Informational (and Enjoyable) Books and Songs
One more practical and beneficial way to adapt STEM education to young minds is to introduce them to STEM-themed books and songs that make learning enjoyable.
While it is recommended to choose age-appropriate books that explore scientific concepts, technological advancements, or engineering marvels for children to read, parents could also participate by singing songs about counting, shapes, or the solar system.
By combining education with entertainment, children develop a positive attitude towards learning and retain information more effectively.
Follow Children's Lead and Learn Alongside Them
As STEM is a wonderful spectrum for both toddlers and adults, caring parents could also join in on this daring intellectual journey with their children.
More than just observing your child's interests and passions, parents should also create opportunities for both parties to explore their curiosity further. For instance, if they show an interest in space, you can plan a planetarium visit with them or watch educational videos together. Or, if they enjoy building with blocks, you can encourage them to construct more complex structures.
Following their lead is a clever way for you to support their natural inclination towards STEM and foster a love for learning.
STEM and the International Baccalaureate
When integrated with the International Baccalaureate (IB) framework, STEM education is further enhanced by the inclusion of the Approaches to Teaching and Learning (ATLs). The IB places a strong emphasis on inquiry-based learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, which align perfectly with the goals of STEM education. The ATLs, including communication, collaboration, research, self-management, and thinking skills, provide a framework for students to develop the necessary competencies in STEM fields. By engaging in hands-on experiments, project-based learning, and real-world applications, students acquire a deeper understanding of STEM concepts and learn to think critically and creatively. Moreover, the ATLs foster effective communication and collaboration among students, preparing them for teamwork and interdisciplinary approaches that are essential in STEM fields. The integration of STEM education with the IB and ATLs empowers students to become competent, innovative, and adaptable problem solvers, ready to tackle the challenges of the ever-evolving global landscape.
By prioritising and focusing on the four concepts that STEM education highlights, parents can nurture their children’s curiosity, ignite their passion for learning, and pave the way for a bright future filled with endless possibilities. Implementing the strategies outlined in this article is a fantastic way to do so.
On the journey to empower children to become future innovators and problem solvers through STEM, parents should also carefully consider great STEM programmes from trusted schools around the world, besides practising at home. UNIS Hanoi, a renowned international school dedicated to inspiring young minds and nurturing their passion for STEM education, is proud to be one of the brightest names on the leaderboard.
Our Early Years classes (for students from 3 to 6 years old) are an important aspect of our IB curriculum.
UNIS Hanoi provides a comprehensive curriculum that integrates STEM across various subjects, allowing students to engage in hands-on experiments, design projects, and collaborative problem-solving. With experienced educators and state-of-the-art facilities, UNIS Hanoi offers a stimulating environment where students can excel and explore their potential in STEM fields.
Start setting the foundation for your child’s future success by applying to our new school year now!