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Ashlea Niven

Ashlea McClear
STEM Leader since November 1, 2020.

I have worked in early childhood education for 9 years

My current role is… Kindergarten Teacher at Sheldon College Kindergarten.

My professional interests…

I love everything about Early Childhood Education – the children’s excitement as they enter the classroom, their smiles and their laughter. I have a passion for educating young children and starting their learning journey with love, engagement and excitement. I take pride in establishing relationships with the children and their families and encouraging young children to take risks and fully emerse themselves in the classroom. I attempt to make each day full of laughter, fun and opportunities for creative thinking. We start most days with a question or an idea – our children are encouraged to share any idea no matter how big or small.

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

Inquiry-based STEM learning allows children to express themselves in ways that are completely unique to them. Children take a very active role in sharing their ideas and I find that through STEM learning the learning process is collaborative and has a strong teamwork focus. When I think of STEM, I envision the children engaging in opportunities that inspire their thinking, provide opportunities to question and ponder, ask “why?” or “how” or “if” and challenging their ways of thinking and interacting with the world. STEM is all around us, so the opportunities truly are limitless.

My favourite Little Scientists workshop is…

Chemical Reactions because the whole process was hands-on and very interactive. I engaged with the learning outcomes by working on the experiment or idea myself. I was able to place myself in the role of the child and to experience the excitement that children share when experimenting with different materials. I made discoveries, posed questions with my partner and reflected on the outcomes of my findings. It gave me a different perspective on the roles of the educator and the child.

My favourite STEM exploration with children…

Looking at the world and hypothesising about an idea or question posed by the children is at the core of STEM exploration. I enjoy engaging the children in experimentation using the inquiry cycle and to observe their pride when they have achieved an outcome.

One memorable moment occurred when we used a coding robot to go from one side of the classroom to the other to find his home. After playing with the coding robot, the children began ‘programming’ each other like robots. They gave each other directions such as forward, backward and turn, to move around the classroom. We then used iPad technology to create coding symbols that the children read to move from one position to another. We spoke in code for about a week and to see the children take this idea and use it in a number of scenarios was engaging and lots of fun!

Early education without STEM is…

Hard to imagine! The environment we create fosters daily opportunities for these experiences and the children interact with the concepts of STEM so readily. It would be hard to think of a day where STEM concepts weren’t present!

In terms of STEM, I encourage my children…

Become risk takers and take on a challenge. In the classroom we say, “we don’t have problems – only solutions”. This attitude has encourgaed many children to take on an active role in their learning and to allow them to experience new STEM concepts by giving them a try. We also problem-solve together as a team and discuss why we may change an idea or tool to help with a solution. Sometimes we don’t find a solution and we work with the children to become resilient and confident to try again.

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

  • Be their cheerleader and encourage thm to experiment and hypothesise.
  • Share the learning experience alongside them and problem-solve as a team.
  • Support the children in finding their answer, experimenting and modelling questioning skills.
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