STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math, is a hot topic in education. You’ve likely come across it in articles or in preschool ads on the radio. Scholars, educators and parents alike can agree that it’s never too early to begin grounding our children with a solid foundation in these subject areas. Especially because research proves that the ability for the brain to reorganize and adapt is greatest during the first years of life, when one million new neural connections are formed every second!
While seemingly complex, STEAM skills are actually easy for children to learn through play and discussion. Even our youngest learners can absorb these kinds of concepts when you teach them in way they can understand.
While many schools teach a separate STEAM unit once a week, exposing children to STEAM concepts daily and weaving them throughout lessons is a great way to foster critical thinking and problem solving skills that will serve children well into adulthood. Reading books, discussing new ideas, trying out everyday experiments and creating art projects are all ways to practice STEAM in the classroom and at home.
STEAM-based learnings and experiences are embedded into different activities that all ladder up to themes the children are learning in the classroom. Take the concepts of day and night, for example:
For young children, this simply means encouraging investigation and answering questions. Our students answer questions such as “Have you seen this animal before?” and “What time of day did you see one?” to determine whether animals are diurnal (awake during the day) or nocturnal (awake at night).
Try it at home: Ask your child follow-up questions while cooking in the kitchen, such as “Why do you think it’s doing that?” and “How do you think that’s possible?” to prompt more critical thinking.
For young children, this could be anything from using simple tools, like crayons and rulers, to using more complex ones like microscopes or tablets. One way we incorporate technology is by setting up a writing table and covering it with a blanket to simulate a campsite at nighttime. Children are encouraged to write in a “camping journal” using a flashlight to help them see.
Try it at home: To help your child learn to use a flashlight, set up a fort with blankets on top (or turn the lights off) and use flashlights to brighten the space. Ask your child to draw a picture of your fort and have him or her use the flashlight to illuminate the pages.
At this age, engineering refers to recognizing problems and testing solutions to them. We encourage our students to create various block structures where darkness is important (E.g., watching movies or camping) and ask questions to help them share their process and thinking, such as “How does the moon being out change your structure?” or “What would happen if it was sunny?”
Try it at home: When your child is playing with blocks, ask your child to build structures based on different scenarios (E.g., “Will you build a garage for my car?” or “Let’s pretend we had some horses. Can you build a house for them?”). Have your child explain his or her structure and ask questions to help think through solutions, such as “Where would we put the food for the horses? Or “What if we needed to give them a bath?”
We encourage creativity and provide children with the opportunities to illustrate concepts they are learning. Our preschoolers sing the song “Daytime, Nighttime” to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin?” and use watercolor paints and paper to show the colors of the sky.
Try it at home: Ask your child what he or she is learning in school; then, create artwork or sing songs together that relate to that topic.
Math for young children does deal with numbers, but also includes patterns, shapes and organizational skills. We use printed cut outs of daytime animals to teach counting, and we ask the children to pair like animals together.
Try it at home: Have your child pair and match socks while you fold laundry. This enables her to start noticing patterns and colors
As you can see, these concepts are easy to practice, and they can make a meaningful contribution to your child’s future success.
STEAM is just one component of the Balanced Learning approach at Primrose Schools. Click here for a deeper dive.