..STEM & Computational Thinking in the Early Years.
If your reaction was anything like the above video, I won’t be surprised or offended. Raising the bar in the Early Years & unraveling misconception pertaining to what Kindergarten & Preschool kids can and can’t do has been my forte for the better part of the last 5 years. Kindergarteners often get a bad wrap (or should I say how their ability to learn & take on big ideas is perceived by others gets a bad wrap). There’s an air of aimless that seems to cloud and misrepresent the abilities of these young learners.
Now, don’t get me wrong no one is disputing the benefits of play-based learning. I myself have been an advocate of it for years. One thing I have noticed recently, however, is that play (without a purpose) in the classroom can sometimes be a slippery slope. The same can be echoed about using technology without a purpose. While students are playing, if you’re not observing what they’re doing & saying and taking (mental) notes, then using that anecdotal evidence to help gauge their interests to ultimately build better relationships, then you’re doing a disservice to both the students & the concept of “play time”. It’s vital that we not forget how important our role is in play-based learning. The same can be said about using technology in the classroom. If you’re using iPads as a pacifier and allowing students to use them to consume more content than they create, then once again you’re doing a disservice to the students & the iPads. (more on that here)
Play to your strengths… but not always.
The title of this posts indicates that I haven’t done too much STEM while looking through the lens of an Early Years’ teacher. Whether or not that was a conscious choice remains undetermined, but I’d consider it a blindspot and one that I’ve overlooked for too long. Perhaps it was because it’s not one of my strong suits or perhaps it was that I too underestimated their abilities to take on such “higher level” concepts. Be that as it may, as educators, we often ask our students to venture into the unknown with the goal of shaking them ever so slightly out of their comfort zone (See the Learning Pit), but do we practice what we preach as well?
This year, I’ve made it apparent that I’ll no longer simply play to my strengths in order to broaden my scope as an educator and help enhance teaching in learning in my classroom. What better way of doing that, then diving head first into something I’m a complete novice at? As the great Carl Sandberg once said, ” I’m an idealist, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way.” < This is my STEM journey in a nutshell.
On another note, by incorporating computational thinking and tech tools such as #MakeyMakey & #BeeBots into my Kinder class I can also break down the age-old tensions & stereotypes about technology as only being digital devices (or simply something with a screen that you can swipe & watch Netflix.)
This tactile & tactical approach of balancing the digital with the analog will not only help promote big ideas, creativity, and innovation, but it will also help reshape the perspective of both parents and students when it comes to #edtech in the #earlyyears, #makerEd, and #designthinking.
Below is just one example of the benefits of teaching STEM in the Early Years, followed by an awesome group of STEM-centered educators to help you get started.
Our Kindergarten STEM journey began with a two-pronged approach. First, we introduced the students to Iggy Peck, the Architect (an awesome story written by Andrea Beaty,) as a way to get them thinking like architects and as a way to introduce them to blueprints & design thinking.
Second, we rolled out the concept of iTime (Feel free to read more about iTime here). Andrea Beaty’s story taught them about the fun open-ended freedom of designing, while iTime provided us with the tools and parameters. Furthermore, in the efforts of making iTime as fun and alluring as possible, our first collective task was to see if we could turn six bananas into a working keyboard. Needless to say, it was very “appeeling” & that STEM in the early years was off and running.
To be continued…
When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone for benefit of the greater good of your students – what was it?
How did you navigate those initial feelings of stepping out of your comfort zone?
What does STEM in the Early Years look like in your classroom?