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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in STEAM
Posted by on in Early Childhood

All Things STEAM logo

co-authored by Nancy Alvarez and Heid Veal

 

What do you picture when you imagine an ideal early childhood learning experience? Do you see young children sitting quietly at tables, independently completing school work or do you visualize them in various groups exploring, creating, pretending, tinkering, and communicating? The later is what the majority imagine and is what many would describe as developmentally appropriate for our youngest learners. When considering an ideal early learning setting, the young learn best when educators design purposeful, integrated experiences where students’ inquisitive nature and creativity are capitalized on to propel them towards foundational learning.

 

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

I was excited to read Peter Gray’s blog post about the importance of reading stories to young children. This practice has been singled out, with good reason, to be crucial to future literacy. There is more to story reading than cuddles and close relationships, he writes, though these are essential for human growth and development, not to mention human joy!

“Knowing how to deal with evil as well as love, how to recognize others’ desires and needs, how to behave towards others so as to retain their friendship, and how to earn the respect of the larger society are among the most important skills we all must develop for a life.”  These skills are actually something we learn all through life, but giving children stories to reflect on gives them a huge advantage, psychologically, as an early start on braving human relationships, and fostering skillful interactions. Dare I say, also, that stories help children learn to be wise rather than right, as in, “right, not wrong”? Our current political discourse would benefit from wisdom rather than from arguing positions of “rightness” as is currently the case.

Surprisingly, one book that became a favorite with a group of pre-k students last year, and demonstrated the difference between wisdom and “might makes right”, was The Cloud Spinner, by Michael Catchpool and Alison Jay. This entrancing story starts out, “There was once a boy who could weave cloth from the clouds”. The boy sings as he works: “Enough is enough and not one stitch more”. Immediately, Alison Jay’s illustrations captivated our children. The hills and houses reflect the moods of the characters. Our preschoolers noticed this before I did! Smiles on hills are made of trees and sheep. Houses smile with windows and doors. In the beginning, nature is in harmony because the boy with his magical loom only makes what he needs. One day, the king notices the boy in a crowd and madly desires clothing, of both himself and his family, made of the clouds. He commands the boy to weave for him. The boy balks at first: “It would not be wise to have (so much fabric) made from this cloth. Your majesty does not need it.” The king is apoplectic, commanding the boy do his bidding. So he does. He weaves, and the illustrations reflect the sadness of the task with darkening color and forlorn hills.

The Cloud Spinner does not so much have a cheerful ending as a wise and uplifting one. Our children were absorbed in noticing details of the varying shades of color that reflect the boy’s, and the King’s daughter’s moods (She helps him to reverse the tragic disappearance of clouds that cause drought and discontent among the people). The King and his family are astounded by the gratitude of the people, after the clothing ordered is turned back into clouds, causing welcome rain. The boy and princess exult in the restoration of a wise order in nature and among humans. Our children, sitting before me, sigh in contentment.

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Posted by on in Movement and Play

This is my first summer without home-based childcare. Although I work from home, keeping my seven-year-old, only child daughter home with me is not a good option because she is (as previously described on my blog) not very good at entertaining herself. I have work that I need to do, and I certainly don't want her on her device all day long.

Most of the time, she goes to a small nearby childcare center that is play-based. During the summer they have weekly themes, and they offer supplies for different craft projects according to those themes. But they are very low-key, and it's typical for me to go by to pick my daughter up and find the kids doing something like making a cooperative book or practicing a show. [And sometimes they are watching a movie - you can't have everything.] But in general, it's a pretty relaxed environment, and ranges from 2 to maybe 6-7 kids there at one time. She's there during the school year after school, too, but there are more kids then.

Wanting to mix things up a bit, I had also signed her up for two weeks at a bigger, more structured day camp, held at a local elementary school. There were lots of STEAM activities - science and art projects (which are now taking up considerable space around our house). There was plenty of time outside running around, themes for the different days, music, and tremendous enthusiasm on the part of the young counselors. We know a bunch of other families who also attended this camp the first week, and most of the kids loved it.

My daughter? Not so much. After the first day, I basically had to force her to go every day. She kept whining and asking why she couldn't just go to the regular place. (Because I had pre-paid, and was not about to pay for 2 different things at the same time.) The best she could tell me about WHY she didn't like it was that it was too much like school. Reading between the lines a bit, it was like school but without the free play at lunch and recess, without any reading, and without seeing as many of her friends (especially the second week - the second week was very painful). She didn't like having to go from activity to activity on someone else's schedule. She didn't like having to run around outside in the heat. She didn't like being with 150 kids instead of the usual handful.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

STEAM play

What started as a dream has become a reality! One short year ago, our campus, Lawson Early Childhood School, began its journey from Dream to STEAM. Our campus recognized the growing need to provide uniquely designed STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) experiences for our 3, 4, and 5 year old students and began imagining what would later become a fully equipped STEAM lab. At the heart of our STEAM dream has consistently been the goal of developing our PreK students socially, emotionally, and academically while providing opportunities for them to explore, collaborate, problem solve, and question through play. Our global society necessitates a strong math/science background, and by building a STEAM lab for our young learners, we are providing foundational experiences and scaffolding academic vocabulary while fostering a love of learning through carefully designed, standards-aligned experiences that provoke creativity, problem solving, and collaboration.

Open-ended lessons requiring communication and critical thinking allow students to explore many solutions to a variety of problems. Our students benefit from opportunities to build lifelong math/science skills as they investigate the power of wind on a variety of objects using a wind tunnel, code Bee-Bots and Code-a-pillars, design structures and scenery with giant interlocking blocks to use as a setting to retell a story, build strong bridges with a variety of materials, and learn to persevere through trial and error with ramps and tunnels on a big magnetic wall. Through play and careful design, we are developing confident risk-takers while our PreK students explore STEAM for their first time.

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We design our STEAM lessons with a structured teaching cycle (thinking, planning, doing, reflecting) to ensure success in the STEAM lab. Each set of lessons is planned to meet specific academic guidelines. Higher order questions, visuals, “I can” statements, and reflection questions are built in so students acquire new academic and social vocabulary. STEAM lessons are introduced to teachers through flipped learning videos, giving them an opportunity to explore and ask questions about the lessons in advance.

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Posted by on in General

STEAM

It has recently become more common to add the "A", or art, to STEM education to make it STEAM education. It is not only a popular trend in education, but it also makes a lot of sense! The world is not sectioned off into subject specific experiences! Learning all of these skills together engages the whole brain and develops skills that are transferable to many educational and career-related areas. For a stunning visual on teaching STEAM vs. STEM, visit this site.

I had a lot of fun planning family science nights for the school I was a science specialist for. The last one I planned and took part in celebrated STEAM. Each activity had some combination of science, technology, engineering, art and/or math. It was a big hit and I am excited to share the activities with you today.

Catapult Painting

catapult

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