Shanika believes that STEM education is based on children’s wonder and curiosity to understand how things work and why. Children learn about STEM by working together with educators to explore and discover hands-on how and why things are the way they are. Consequently, Shanika sees her role in the children’s research and discovery as being supportive, to facilitate and to be available to guide them through their discoveries. She joins in the excitement of learning and provides engaging resources to help them as they continue to build their knowledge.
Inquiry-based STEM is a holistic approach as it provides a journey for the children. They are not given a simple answer to their questions but are encouraged to go on an expedition. Inquiry-based STEM gives children the opportunity to explore, ask questions and engage in hands-on learning. This allows educators to adapt to new roles in response to the child’s needs – being a facilitator, engager, supporter and alongside learner.
Shanika believes that engagement with STEM is an essential aspect of early childhood education. Even before truly unpacking STEM, children will always encounter STEM throughout their daily interactions and learn new concepts without even noticing.
In her experience, engineering is always an enjoyable STEM topic to explore as there is so much to find out and it is everywhere around us – from movements to inclined planes there are so many investigative areas for children to explore. The children in the class especially love exploring how things can move and the different ways of investigating this – one of their favourite explorations involved roller boards.
The Little Scientists Optics workshop was very useful for Shanika as it showed her a new and extraordinary way to approach topics and she appreciates the way the workshop introduces the theory and practical sides of Optics as well as looking at colour and light in a different way. She was happy that she got to take home some ideas on how to adapt the topic for younger children.
Based on her professional development and experience with STEM learning in her daily practice, Shanika encourages educators to ask questions and to keep trying even when they are not sure. She believes that the best part of inquiry learning is the exploration and discovery, giving children the opportunity to discuss with other children and to be part of team, which allows them to develop knowledge, share ideas and develop their voice through their conversations and social interactions.