Did you realize that your children are engaging in daily experiences that build the underlying dispositions and knowledge to help them succeed in our Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) driven economy and world? In technical early childhood terms, we call this play!
Dr. Lisa Regalla from the Center for Childhood Creativity shares six findings that develop the roots of STEM success and we see examples of this throughout our Early Childhood classrooms at Bernard Zell.
1. Young children are wired for causal learning and the ability to make statistical inferences. This is why we see our students testing things out during play and making adjustments to their explorations as they weigh expected vs. unexpected results.
2. More play leads to better STEM thinking. Research shows that if something doesn't work the way you thought, you tend to play with it longer. As our students explore open-ended play and the intentional invitations we provide, we have the opportunity to ask "what would happen if you had done _____?" or "Why do you think that happens?" As they work through these questions, their analytical skills and critical thinking grow.
3. STEM and language learning develop in tandem. When children have the opportunity to play both independently and through guided play with teachers or parents, they develop spatial reasoning skills - the ability to mentally manipulate objects and shapes within their environment. This skill is foundational to STEM achievement. Elaborative talk (asking "wh" questions: who, what, when, where and why) and spatial vocabulary development are strategies adults can use to help scaffold children's learning.
4. Active, self-directed learning builds STEM skills. Active learning helps children to grapple with abstract ideas and self-directed inquiry builds lifelong interest.
5. Mindset matters to STEM success. A growth mindset leads to confidence! We teach our students that not everything comes easy and perseverance is important. When a child says they can't do something, we remind them to add "yet!" It's a powerful word!
6. Adult support and executive functioning skills promote abstract thinking. Supporting our student’s development of self-control, cognitive flexibility, and working memory are all necessary for them to successfully engage in abstract thinking, an important skill when engaging in STEM-related learning.
Our Bernard Zell Early Childhood team works to inspire curiosity, grow problem-solving skills, and co-construct knowledge as we engage in learning with our youngest students each day. By allowing time, asking questions, praising process and embracing the mess, we are setting our students up for success!