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STEM Leader – February 2021

Posted on January 30th, 2021 in STEM leaders
Hayley Drennan

Hayley Drennan is currently working as a kindergarten teacher in an integrated 3- to 5-year room at Saltwater Childcare Centre in Footscray, Melbourne.

With 16 years’ experience in early childhood education, Hayley focuses on blending the magic of both left- and right-brain thinking by meshing drama with STEAM.

She also enhances drawing with creative storytelling and seeks to nurture resilience and emotional intelligence in children. Metacognition is important in her approach as she believes that children can find their own voice and identity when they can articulate how they think and learn.

Hayley believes that inquiry-based STEM learning encourages you to view the world with a creative and innovative spirit and allows children of all genders, backgrounds and abilities to access STEM learning. As there is no wrong answer when children are actively engaged, STEM education nurtures children’s confidence to question, make predictions, test theories, modify plans, use their powers of observation and record data in a variety of ways. Hayley believes that viewing our environment through the lens of STEM brings magic and learning to everyday situations. Hayley finds STEM in the sandpit, the water trough, collage construction and playdough: “When we open our eyes, everything we do, see, make and plan for has the potential for adventures in STEM.”

Following the children’s lead, Hayley likes to see them extend their own interest during STEM exploration. She is not interested in a specific STEM topic as much as being excited by the children’s actions and enthusiasm. Hayley constantly sees the children exceed her expectations. She often feels like she knows where the project started and where it is going, only to be steered in the most fantastical and thought-provoking directions by the children. When the children feel confident to ‘have a go’, they both thrill Hayley and challenge her with their insight.

Hayley is very particular and conscious that children have equal voices and opportunities and feel valid in their observations and ideas as she believes that this will make them more likely to develop the confidence to take risks and solve new problems. In Hayley’s experience, celebrating the children’s achievements at the end of a project is an important part of helping them fall in love with the STEM mindset.

During inquiry-based STEM learning experiences, Hayley sees her role as keeping the children on track but also helping them fall down the rabbit hole of their own questions and curiosity. She believes that some tangents are worth exploring, but feels she sometimes needs to remind the children of the learning goal. Helping children clarify their questions and thoughts is usually the key to seeing them commit to complete each project, she says. She also believes that helping the children document their ideas and observations is important, because it shows that you can make learning visible without being able to read and write. Celebrating their knowledge and skills is also important in Hayley’s experience, because they all have the opportunity to see themselves as capable and skilful co-creators of knowledge.

Hayley thinks that it is important for many educators to take the role of the child more often, which is why she likes the Little Scientists Water workshop. It invites educators to be messy, get dirty, experience awe and wonder and just accept an invitation to ‘play’. Hayley experienced this workshop as so open-ended that it re-taught her the meaning of that concept.

As STEM will play a big role in the future, Hayley sees it as an important area of early childhood education. She believes it likely that the children in her care will be employed in roles that don’t even exist yet. She says that, as we develop our modern world, we need creative and innovative leaders who know how to think like a scientist: how to question, plan, design, build, adapt. Hayley sees nurturing our future leaders with a STEM mindset as crucial, knowing those first five years in a child’s life are of utmost importance. She also sees early STEM education as a way of promoting women to work within the field, as STEM empowers everyone to be a capable and active participant.

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