Experts in education throughout the world agree that there is a national imperative to graduate students with an understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In 2007, a Carnegie Foundation commission concluded that the capacity to innovate and thrive in the modern workforce depends on a foundation of math and science learning.
But what is STEM exactly? STEM is an interdisciplinary and an applied approach to teaching. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications. STEM can also be described as a philosophy: it’s a way of helping students to think in a more connected and holistic way.
Many parents ask us what age we think it is appropriate to start teaching STEM to children. We believe that it is never too early to start STEM education.
Children are very active learners at 1,2 and 3 years old so you don’t necessarily have to wait until they start kindergarten to engage in STEM activities. The research is quite clear that the best practice in early childhood education is to break away from passive instruction and allow for more play and investigation, and this kind of learning early in life builds skills and interests that serve children throughout their school years, and later in life. Take your children to the park and let them explore, get up and watch a sunrise with them or let them swim in the sea.
Lilian G. Katz, in STEM in the Early Years, lays out a case that the best practice for early education is to allow students to be active, engaged, and take initiative in their own learning. Allowing our children to have the opportunities to take initiative in their own learning is not only good for STEM learning, but for overall long-term academic success.
In a lot of academic instruction children are in a passive or receptive mode instead of being more active. Early childhood education should tap into children’s natural curiosity and give them ample opportunities to be active participants in their own learning. Natural settings offer children almost unlimited opportunities to explore and investigate, helping them build STEM skills that create a solid foundation for future learning.
If you’d like more information about STEM education please get in touch. We over private and group out-of-school classes in Toronto.