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STEM Leader – May 2020

Posted on April 30th, 2020 in STEM leaders
Michelle George avatar

I have worked in early childhood education for 30 years in a range of educator and coordinator roles.

My current role is… Preschool educator St. Margaret Mary’s Preschool.

My professional interests are…

I have always been excited to listen to children’s theories and observe them as they notice, question, investigate and make connections between current understandings and new information or ideas.

I am passionate about the importance of the intentionality of our language, interactions and challenges when exploring alongside children and am an advocate for early intervention with children.

This comes to my mind when I think of STEM…

FUN, PLAY, ENGAGEMENT. STEM is a vehicle to support children’s innate curiosity about the world. Children love to explore their environment, want to find out how things function, how man-made objects or machines work and how new things can be constructed, created and built. STEM exploration teaches children so much about our society and explains the order, patterns and relationships of our world.

I am a fan of inquiry-based STEM learning because…

We know that early childhood is the most crucial time for brain development and research shows there is enourmous capacity for them to expand their neurological pathways. I believe that by asking the right questions to stimulate their natural curiosity, they use thinking strategies that enhance this potential. Through encouraging children to be curious, to ask questions, to explore, to predict, test and share, we are supporting the development of an approach to thinking and learning that they will use throughout life.

Inquiry-based STEM practices affirm what quality early childhood educators already do and fit perfectly with the EYLF. It is a play-based, hands-on approach that encourages children to ‘have a go’: to take risks, to try something new, to voice their thinking, ideas and predictions, to work together, to seek sources of information and to make connections between new and prior knowledge.

My favourite Little Scientists workshop is…

Air because this was a topic that I had never really explored with my students and participating in the practical investigations gave me the feelings I hope my preschool children have: I enjoyed working with people I didn’t know, to collaborate, share and test our ideas. There were so many different opportunities to engage with air in a hands-on way. It was fun and exciting!

My favourite STEM exploration with children…

I thoroughly enjoyed our colour, light and shadow inquiry. There is so much to investigate! An example that I love is, after exploring how we could make a rainbow using water, mirrors, crystal ornaments and torches, one of the children noticed a rainbow on the turtle tank and said, “Look, the sun is shining through the window and the glass and the water in the tank are making a rainbow here”. I was thrilled about the children’s inquisitiveness. I convinced one of the parents, a scientist at CSIRO, to visit the children wearing her lab coat. She showed us an experiment using coffee filters that allowed us to see all the colours within colours. The children loved it!

Life without STEM would be…

Life without STEM is unimaginable. The children’s curiosity is innate. From the time they are born, they begin exploring their world. They already have the questions. How could we not want to encourage their thinking and investigations?

In terms of STEM, I encourage my children…

I encourage my children to share their current ideas and especially their questions, to observe and talk about what they are noticing, to make connections between what they already knew and what they have discovered, to brainstorm possibilities, to work together and to use all their senses to find out as much as they can.

My role in the children’s discovery and research is to…

My role is to be positive and interested in the things they are curious about and confident that we can research more about it together. I never worry that I don’t know the answers to their question. I see it as an opportunity for me to model my inquiry skills by joining in with them.

I model the language of thinking about what I already know, about something that might be similar and any other questions I might have. I do this collaboratively with the children, encouraging them to share their thinking. Together we brainstorm ways we could find out more, where we could look and who we could ask. Each time we return to our inquiry, I encourage the children to refer to any documentation and reflect on what we wanted to know and what we have found out. Sometimes this leads to a hypothesis or more questions. Then we decide what we should think about or do next.

I am intentional about modelling the language we use for scientific processes such as observe, question, predict, hypothesise, test, document and conclude. This helps the children to understand what they are engaged in and enables them to engage in scientific investigation.

I try to support their investigations and stimulate curiosity by providing materials.

I try to ensure my questions are open ended. I often use the phrase ‘I wonder…’ as this helps me to not imply there is one correct answer.

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