STEM education is beneficial for all ages, including preschoolers and kindergartners. Introducing students to STEM provides early access to a lifetime of learning and exploring. In this post, find out more about the benefits of beginning STEM education at an early age, and learn why it's never too early to dive into STEM learning.
There’s no shortage of acronyms when it comes to education, but STEM is one many educators support and encourage. The combination of four key areas of learning — science, technology, engineering, and math — STEM programs allow children to develop skills that extend beyond these specific subjects, ones that they’ll use throughout their lives.
With activities that encourage higher-level thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, and gathering and processing evidence, students don’t even realize the foundation they’re establishing for themselves as they engage in fun activities that often include collaboration.
Because of the importance of what STEM can do for students, it’s never too early to begin taking part in STEM activities. Curriculum exists for all ages, and being able to build these skills throughout their educational career helps prepare students to succeed as they enter the workforce as adults.
The Benefits of STEM Education
There are so many benefits to incorporating a STEM curriculum into early childhood education. Not only are students gaining exposure to science, technology, engineering, and math early, but their learning is vibrant and engaging in special ways.
The excitement that comes from project-based STEM education could very well lead to more students continuing their study of any of these subjects well beyond their primary education. It also teaches them that learning is fun. This is just the tip of the iceberg though when it comes to why STEM is so important for students.
Especially in early childhood education, STEM learning provides the significant benefit of driving active learning. Many activities are hands-on, including:
- Building something out of a set of materials
- Playing a game as a group
- Using a specific piece of technology to reach a goal
This not only makes learning fun, it becomes more memorable too. Ask any first grader what they did in school today. They won’t tell you about the worksheets they completed or the addition facts they practiced, but they’ll talk for an extended amount of time about the car they made with a toilet paper roll, straws, and some Lego wheels.
Retaining these activities may not make it obvious in the moment students have learned anything significant, but mathematical formulas and scientific rules are hiding all throughout STEM education, in addition to the soft skills students develop.
There’s nothing like a group project to get students thinking critically while working out how to meet the goals of the activity when a bunch of personalities have to come together. This builds social skills and improves communication. Self-esteem can go up when a group succeeds. This added confidence may make it easier for those students to speak up in class, or feel more comfortable continuing to learn within that particular subject.
Talking with their peers as they work in a group also has the added benefit of improving language skills. The introduction to new vocabulary within the STEM subjects also enhances language. They’re picking up new information, while getting to practice the effectiveness of what they say so they learn how to craft constructive sentences others will really hear.
Developing these skills at an early age will only make group work go more smoothly as they grow and projects are assigned with more creative freedom and less teacher support. Then there’s the professional workplace, where collaboration happens often. Knowing how to handle different personalities and to work effectively within any group (because they’re been practicing these skills since they were very young) can make a world of difference when it comes to success.
Collaborative learning also goes hand-in-hand with technology, and another student favorite, gamification. Online learning tools that present information through games can engage the whole class in collaborative play. It can open up young students to the joys of learning and the realization that there are many different ways to access information.
It’s a common misconception that engaging in STEM-based activities detracts from all the subjects not included in the acronym. Of course, this points a finger at the exclusion of language arts, reading, etc.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. What STEM really does is present ways to learn that are beyond the memorization of facts. It creates opportunities to take a more holistic approach to learning, so that one lesson incorporates many subjects rather than separating each out.
When it comes to language arts and literacy, there’s a direct correlation between science instruction and improvement in these areas. Studying STEM can also increase executive functioning, which helps students plan, remember instructions, juggle multiple tasks, and focus. These skills are all essential to reading comprehension, essay writing, and more.
There’s also the real world element that STEM can bring into other subject areas. Maybe the STEM project students completed in the morning focused on the design of a spaceship to study aerodynamics. Then, later in a history lesson, students read about the first successful shuttle launch. When it’s time for reading, the class sits and listens to a story about becoming an astronaut. It’s a day of space, brought into every subject.
What About the ‘A’ in STEAM?
Recently, STEM education has experienced a shift to STEAM education. Without losing the benefits and value of STEM, STEAM adds in the arts. It’s not about going to art class though, it’s about increasing the soft skills a student can develop.
With the inclusion of the ‘A,’ students have more opportunity to think outside the box. They can use visualization strategies to look at mathematical data or artistic imagery to understand scientific concepts you can’t see in the real world. You can even blend arts and technology through tools like a 3D printer or an infographic app.
Whether early education curriculum incorporates STEAM or STEM, the mission is the same — to build essential soft skills while enhancing interest in learning more complex topics.
Lifelong Learning through STEM Subjects
Science, technology, engineering, and math– the combination of these four subjects is crucial in developing essential hard and soft skills throughout a child’s education. Starting early, with engaging and interactive STEM activities, gives them that leg up to find even more success as they grow.
STEMscopes incorporates hands-on learning with fun and engaging activities for Math and Science. Open up the world of inquiry for all ages. Learn more about how STEMscopes can support early childhood education in your classroom!