At Kid Spark Education we’re proud to offer programs that make it possible for educators in early childhood education to Middle School to teach STEM. Our elementary and middle school STEM programs provide value by helping children to see themselves as critical thinkers and problem solvers, both skills that have countless applications.
After ten years of research on STEM education for preschoolers and elementary students, we've got a lot to say about the importance of block play for young children as well as the importance of STEM mentors. In fact, our research shows that mentors (teachers, parents, grandparents....) aren't simply important—they're critical in helping children feel confident and capable in STEM.
Good news: Kids are already using the Design & Engineering Process
That means your job is to simply help your kids understand what they're already doing naturally. Take a look at a few real-world examples of the Design & Engineering Process that kids are already involved in, and notice what these things all have in common.
If you’re like a lot of parents (who may be newly homeschooling your elementary-aged kids), you've heard a lot about STEM education lately. Maybe you're looking for ways to incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning into the curriculum provided by your child's teacher, or you're looking for educational enrichment you can do to bring STEM home.
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have always been important for learning about and impacting the world we live in. But these days, there's even more emphasis on the importance of STEM, especially understanding how to use the four subjects together to create new solutions to old problems.
But despite the importance of STEM, by 4th grade, 1 of 3 children have decided that science isn’t for them, by 8th grade, it’s half of all students; the number rises for girls, children of color, and children from
low-income families. Yet, 80% of jobs in the near future will require math and science skills. The key to disrupting that pattern is introducing STEM to children early and often.
The good news is, kids are typically quick learners with an intense curiosity for the world around them. In many cases, kids achieve their earliest intellectual stimulation through play. Kids may not know it, but they learn about many subjects through their structured and unstructured play time.
Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking
One of the main aims of the education system is preparing students to fill jobs in the workforce. That workforce has evolved greatly in the last few decades with the advent of the Digital Age. It has become much more technology-driven with a high demand for workers in fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Furthermore, all indications from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics are for continued rapid growth in the type and number of STEM-related jobs across various industries. In fact, the rate of employment growth in STEM occupations was double that of non-STEM fields between 2009-2015, and the trends don’t show signs of slowing.
Educators have taken note of this trend and its implications for the teaching-learning process. In 2002, the National Education Association (NEA), the United States Department of Education, and several high-ranking companies in the information and technology sector spearheaded the formation of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), a national advocacy organization that encourages the use of technology in education and provides tools and resources to support it.
Over the years, P21 has refined the list of desirable skills for the STEM-enabled workforce into what is now known as the 4 Cs: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. These skills work in tandem with the knowledge-based and technical skills children are taught, in order to foster deeper learning in all content areas.
We all learned the scientific method in school, and you may still have a few preconceived ideas about it because of your experience. Maybe you remember it as a structured approach used for science fair projects or lab experiments. This rigid view that’s applied in science class is not applicable to everyday life. But the scientific method shouldn’t be seen as inflexible or exclusive to the science classroom. In fact, you use the scientific method every day. Think of it as a logical process for solving a problem and gaining knowledge.
“The Engineering and Design Cycle? NGSS?? First Common Core, and now this new stuff. I can barely cover all the things I need to as it is, how am I supposed to fit in another thing? And Engineering?!? I can’t teach that, I wouldn’t even know where to begin!....”
If you’re like me, you might sometimes feel a sense of overwhelm as you’re asked to do more and more in the classroom, often with less resources. But I have great news: NGSS (short for Next Generation Science Standards) may be a new abbreviation to learn, but the Engineering and Design Cycle (also known as the Engineering and Design Process) is actually something most of you are already doing in your classroom. Rather than seeing it as a list of things you have to accomplish, NGSS can be reframed as a unique way to build classroom culture that embraces STEM education. It’s a way to teach students to work together, challenge themselves, take risks, and learn from their mistakes.
If you’re like a lot of general education teachers, you've heard a lot about STEM education lately. Maybe you've been asked by your K-5 principal to be the school's STEM teacher but aren't sure exactly where to start, or you're just looking for ways to incorporate it into your classroom curriculum.