Children Develop Resilience, Problem-Solving, Communication
For more than three years CELA members have found affordable professional development in the burgeoning area of science, technology, engineering and maths [STEM] through an agreement with the Little Scientists organisation. CELA writer Margaret Paton looks at how this training is going and why it’s so important.
You’d have to be living under an igneous rock to avoid the focus on education in STEM (sometimes STEAM -including A for arts) in recent years. The Australian Government has invested substantially in STEM for the school sector – but the good news is that there is money for early education too. The youngest minds in Australia, it seems, won’t be ignored in the STEM revolution.
Little Scientists and CELA engaged early in the highly effective train-the-trainer model to deliver STEM and federal funding supports parts of the program under the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
What’s stopping you?
The elephant in the room is that many educators feel they don’t have the confidence to bring STEM to the service floor. CELA Learning and Development Specialist, Louise Black, says this often is because of our experiences with science when we are young. “That’s why it’s important to introduce the concepts well
in early childhood, so we can nurture curiosity and engage children in a lifelong interest”.
Are you already doing it?
Our service probably already offers STEM even if it’s not on purpose! “People often think of science as an academic endeavour,” Louise says. “Educators sometimes think it’s too expensive for them to run a program but you can deliver STEM with low-cost everyday materials or recycled items”.
“We demonstrate this through Little Scientists workshops and I encourage educators to think resourcefully: ask families for donations and use the community resources they have around them.”
Children love it
Children are hard-wired to be inquisitive, especially between the ages of three to five when they typically pepper adults with Why and How questions.
“Children are curious about things like why does ice-cream melt and why do rainbows form, these are things that affect them and their everyday lives,” Louise says.
Age three to five is a peak time to nurture this exploration.
What STEM offers
How do services fit STEM into their learning programs, which may already feel overly full? Louise says when STEM is inquiry-based, it incorporates many other skills along the way. “Literacy and numeracy is incorporated, and STEM discussions enhance children’s social skills. They talk with peers, problem solve and test solutions.”
National scheme, local delivery
The amount of STEM ECE resources can be overwhelming and quality varies. A good place to start, no matter where you are on your STEM journey, is by connecting with experts.
Heike Schneider from Little Scientists says their originally German content has been localised for Australia. She says it is constantly reviewed and improved based on trainers’ and educators’ feedback from every workshop.
What to expect
Full day workshops cover topics including Water, Air, Engineering, Optics, Mathematics and the Human Body. Workshops begin with educators exploring a big table covered in STEM-related materials and responses are always varied.