Bethany Hewitt is a senior early childhood educator and currently an education leader at Glandore Private Kindergarten and Child Care Centre, SA. With extensive qualifications, including a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood and a Graduate Diploma of Montessori Education, Bethany has also participated in several professional development opportunities on nature play.
Bethany sees inquiry-based STEM as an opportunity for herself and her colleagues to search within themselves for their inner child’s sense of wonder and excitement about new concepts. She encourages colleagues to make it fun and show their passion for learning. She describes her own joy in STEM explorations as treasuring “those light bulb or “ah-ha!” moments […] that make you realise you’re doing the right job. When projects and activities snowball from an idea or question posed by a child, it feels like the most natural progression in the world. That moment of discovery that fills the entire body with joy and wonder so evident on someone’s face makes you want to keep searching and learning – that is the beauty of STEM in the early years.”
Bethany recalls an inspiring STEM learning experience at the community garden next to a centre where she used to work. When the children noticed pumpkins growing, they became fascinated by them so Bethany made them the centre of their learning: They studied the different parts of the pumpkin and drew pumpkins, cooked a whole range of pumpkin recipes, counted with images of pumpkins, researched different types of pumpkins and where they were grown in the world, told stories and sang songs with felt pumpkins on a felt board. One child brought in a pumpkin from his own vegetable garden that was the longest the children had ever seen, so they measured it with different units and compared its weight to their own. The children’s initial fascination turned into a whole term of fun and learning about something as “everyday” as a pumpkin.
The inquiry-based STEM approach has taught Bethany to be flexible and adapt her early learning ideas or plans if the children’s interests change. She learnt from the pumpkin experience there is a lot in one interest topic, which can cover a variety of curriculum areas. Every year, Bethany learns something new, and she sincerely hopes she will continue to find that child-like wonder for learning as she continues her life journey.