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STEM Leader – March 2021

Posted on February 28th, 2021 in STEM leaders

Nicole Lonergan is an early childhood teacher, who is currently looking after the kindergarten-aged children at The Grove Children’s Centre in Coburg, Victoria. With seven years’ experience in early childhood education, Nicole focuses on child-led learning and outdoor play, which is very important to her as she feels this is a great space for children to explore a wide range of concepts, ideas and interests as they emerge.

The Grove Children’s Centre has adapted STREAM. In the kindergarten room, the children investigate inquiry topics that are a combination of intentional teaching, child-led learning and emergent interests. This inquiry approach underpins Nicole’s educational philosophy. In addition, she has a strong interest in children’s emotional safety and wellbeing.

Nicole could list almost every word in the dictionary to describe STEM as it encompasses so many ideas about who we are in the world and our community. For her, STEM is hands-on, engaging, emergent, collaborative, inclusive and fun; it incorporates learning, research and exploration and promotes children’s wellbeing, interests, understanding, school readiness and positive dispositions towards learning.

Nicole advocates inquiry-based STEM learning as it engages children with the centre’s program and ties everything together from group times to learning spaces. She has had positive feedback from families as the children’s excitement and engagement is reflected in the home environment when they share their knowledge and sing their songs. For Nicole, there is nothing more rewarding as a teacher than seeing the joy in a child’s face as their love of learning grows.

Believing that without STEM early childhood education would be a duller world, Nicole’s favourite exploration with children so far has been in sustainability, where they looked at their impact on the environment and what all citizens can do to be sustainable within the community.

STEM is a fun approach to the early childhood curriculum and a fantastic way to develop positive dispositions to learning, says Nicole, and she encourages the children to enjoy, explore and engage. She emboldens the children to ask questions, have fun and enjoy learning – on their own terms. Through the kindergarten inquiry topics, the group explores ideas by asking questions, hypothesising and researching, using books, songs, videos and the centre’s tablet.

Nicole sees her role in facilitating interests and providing a rich learning environment for children to explore. During research, she ensures that children are asking questions and gives them the tools to explore ideas.

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