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What is STEM? Why is it Important in Early Years’ Education

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The education and experiences that children are exposed to in their formative years will have a considerable impact on their attitudes and how they develop in later life. Your child’s first teacher, perhaps at an international kindergarten in Bangkok, will play a crucial role in creating opportunities where your child can explore in a fun and safe environment, one that will promote learning and set your child up for everything that they will encounter growing up.

The first three years of a child’s life is when they will soak up the most information. It is during this period when children should be encouraged to ask questions, explore and have a home and school environment that fosters curiosity. It is this curiosity that will help their learning, and this can be through play at a reputable international kindergarten in Bangkok.

What is STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics which form a significant part of the curriculum from pre-school until high school. Each of the disciplines becomes entwined with the others to give a more balanced and overall level of learning. It is something that should begin at an early age when the child doesn’t even recognise it as learning and associates it more with play and fun. The role of the teacher is to develop new techniques that will capture a child’s imagination and interest. Teachers should actively encourage children to:

  • ask pertinent questions
  • work closely with their companions
  • to be creative and think outside the box
  • solve increasingly complex problems
  • explore their curiosity
  • to take calculated risks
  • to find their new solutions to a range of tasks
  • explore new methods of doing daily tasks

Why is it beneficial?

Children that find learning enjoyable achieve higher levels of success at a younger age. If this is something that they are encouraged to continue throughout their schooling, the STEM subjects will have given them an excellent foundation for learning. It is something that is supported by research conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Encouraging children to ask questions is allowing them the opportunity to play a proactive role in their own learning. The more questions that they ask, the more they will start to understand what is happening around them. By merely asking questions, they are being encouraged to develop critical thinking skills one of the main components of STEM.

When a child asks “why”, try to encourage their problem-solving capabilities by not answering their question but instead point them in the direction of where they can find the answer themselves. It is a theory and concept supported by research conducted by the Community of Advancing Discovery Research in Education (CADRE) who are advocates of using STEM in pre-school education.

Many researchers are firmly of the belief that a STEM curriculum should play an equally important role in early years learning as literacy skills.

STEM and language development

Children of an early age quickly learn the role and importance of language. In the early years, they will make noises that as parents, you will start to understand. As the child learns to talk, this is when STEM should be slowly introduced to them with children being encouraged to read books, perhaps about space or other scientific projects. The intention is to stimulate conversation, discussion and questions. Children should be encouraged to formulate plans and test theories.

It is the role of the teacher to encourage the child to test theories and hypotheses and encourage them to discuss their finding with their classmates. It will help to develop the core skills of literacy and comprehension. As you can see, STEM works hand in hand with encouraging the development of many skills required throughout life.

Independent learning and working with others

All children should be encouraged to develop both their communication and problem-solving skills from an early age. One of the best ways of doing this is by encouraging the child to talk about their ideas as well as putting something down on paper. The writing down of ideas may be too advanced for most very young children, but the opportunity should be made available to them to at least try.

We are aware that naturally, young children are inquisitive and are keen to explore the world around them. In an international kindergarten in Bangkok, for example, children of all nationalities can be encouraged to learn English using STEM education as simple scientific experiments do not demand the child to have an extensive vocabulary. The goal is to encourage questioning and exploration.

STEM in Practice

It is recognised that children should be slowly introduced to STEM even before kindergarten by their parents. STEM should form a prominent role in a child’s education until they are around nine or ten years old. Teachers should encourage both scientific and mathematical thinking as well as discussing their finding with their peers. Reading and writing about the subject will also promote greater thinking and development. STEM provides a crucial link between a child’s everyday life and the educational disciplines that will later become transferable to other subjects and situations.

The importance of self discovery

STEM should be promoted throughout schooling with support strategies be put in place to encourage learning. The role of the educator is to listen and watch how children relate to each other and identify any issues at an early age. All children should be encouraged to discuss and elaborate on their thoughts and ideas as well as putting their hypotheses to the test.

Naturally, parents also have a critical role to play, so to a degree, STEM learning should be made available at home. Independent thinking should always be encouraged as well as linking experiences that they have at both school and home. Parents should take an active interest in their child’s learning and ask questions. In turn, the child should be encouraged to explain and discuss their education.

Children should always be encouraged to take a path of self-discovery and learn the correlation between school, home and daily life.

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