Margaret Chua , Nominated Supervisor and Teacher at Patterson Lakes Kindergarten in Victoria, has been working in early childhood education for almost 11 years. Her professional focus is on STEM exploration and social inclusion, her approach inspired by Reggio Emilia.
For Margaret, experiments are a central part of STEM learning as they generate interest and curiosity among the children. In her experience, experiments are also a fun and engaging way to introduce children to scientific research as they learn to hypothesise, observe, analyse and draw conclusions. Hands-on experiments are Margaret’s favourite STEM exploration as they help children understand concepts such as float and sink, state of matter, gravity and air. These experiments also strengthen children’s problem-solving skills. Recently, Margaret has used Sphero, Beebots and Cubetto, as she sees coding as another way to practise problem solving.
Margaret says that listening to the children’s “Why?”-questions, their hypotheses and approaches to finding the answers, as well as their possible solutions regularly blow her mind. She recalls a child asking how the Earth was formed, to which another child responded that it grows slowly. This led to further inquiry and deeper research, as children contributed their answers. In Margaret’s opinion, the benefits of inquiry-based STEM learning are that it encourages children to express their ideas and thoughts freely while strengthening their interest in STEM as it becomes part of their everyday conversation.
According to Margaret, learning about engineering particularly helps equip children with the knowledge to understand how the things around them work, which is why Margaret found attending the Little Scientists Engineering + Technical Education workshop particularly useful. Her knowledge from this workshop also helps her in preparing activities that increase the children’s interests in hands-on engineering and enhances their passion to invent things for the exciting future they envision.
Margaret believes that STEM is an important part of early childhood education because it prepares children for solving real world problems. STEM education also inspires them to become future innovators and leaders. To help the children in their STEM learning journey, Margaret encourages them to become curious through exploration, to become problem solvers through observations and making hypotheses and to become active learners by conducting experiments and creating innovative solutions. Margaret provides a nurturing environment that sparks children’s curiosity and facilitates children’s meetings where they discuss and explore solutions She also makes resources for children and develops research-based activities that promote continuous learning.