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Publication: The Sector | Published on: 04 December 2019
Original article: In Conversation with Associate Professor Amy MacDonald, ECEC STEM researcher

Spotlight on the importance of ECEC inquiry based STEM with release of joint statement

Early childhood educators, service managers and policy makers will be better positioned to tackle meaningful engagement with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the early childhood education space from today, following the release of a joint position statement from Charles Sturt University STEM Education Research Group and Little Scientists Australia.

The statement, released this morning, highlights the importance of early childhood STEM education, and builds on the research, advocacy and professional development undertaken by Little Scientists, an initiative of FROEBEL Australia, to increase the understanding of effective STEM education in the years before school.

Highlighting the critical foundations that early education plays in children’s STEM journeys, the position statement recognises the importance of inquiry based STEM exploration, and the way in which these explorations can spark lifelong curiosity and appreciation for STEM.

In essence, the statement notes, “STEM is about awe and wonder, and using the knowledge and processes of STEM to help children and educators pose, ponder, and solve problems that are meaningful to their worlds and contexts.”

As well as focusing on the importance of STEM for igniting the spark of discovery in children, the position paper advocates strongly for the needs of early childhood educators to be supported with high quality professional development in order to be confident in delivering STEM based learning.

Early childhood environments are natural choices for discovery and research, and there are opportunities for STEM based learning which pop up seamlessly within a typical day of early learning. Despite this, some educators lack the confidence to engage in STEM. By supporting educators with high quality, sustained professional development, attitudes can be shifted, and educators can grow in confidence and willingness to engage.

A number of guest speakers shared their perspectives on the value and positioning of STEM at the launch including:  

  • Professor Lyn Beazley, Science Ambassador, Murdoch University
  • Associate Professor David Smith, Head, School of Education, Charles Sturt University
  • Mr Olde Lorenzen, Managing Director FROEBEL Australia
  • Ms Leanne Gibbs, Senior Manager, Engagement and Translation at Early Start, University of Wollongong
  • Ms Haritsa Xenidis, Centre Director and National Winner of 2020 Little Scientists Early STEM Award, Bambou Early Learning Centre, Glen Waverly VIC

“If you want to know how to ‘do STEM’, look at our youngest children,” Little Scientists said.

“Every day, young children are curious, creative, and do not hesitate to try things out. They notice things, wonder about them, and explore. They ask questions, investigate, and seek to understand. They use their own capacities in resourceful ways, and they are not afraid to call upon the resourcefulness of others when they need help, or when they want to share curiosities and discoveries with others.”

“We believe that to discover the wonders of STEM, children need to be given the opportunity to explore the world in a nurturing and playful environment that scaffolds their eagerness to learn.”

Read the full position statement.
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