Jessica is an early childhood teacher and educational leader at Goodstart Riverside Gardens, WA, with a professional interest in conservation and sustainability education and understanding for young citizens. She looks to support the development of critical thinking skills required for young people to make the changes required for our planet’s future.
Jessica believes that inquiry-based STEM is very important for developing the skills and thought patterns for children’s future learning and engagement in learning. In her experience, after several inquiry projects, the children begin to design their own investigations and develop the confidence to express and test their ideas. Jessica finds it is such an organic way of meeting the curriculum expectations outlined in the EYLF as the children become so heavily engaged.
To support other educators, Jessica helps them reflect on the STEM experiences. “Every time I have done this, the educators realise how much they can do and how much fun they had with the children,” she says.
One moment that captured the essence of joyful everyday STEM experiences for Jessica was when she and the children found potatoes in the garden. They all had completely forgotten that they had planted potatoes several months back and came across them when digging for bugs. The children and Jessica were excited and worked together to find tools to dig them up. They cleaned them and then decided as a team to cook them for lunch with herbs from the garden.
In her daily practice, Jessica has observed that STEM inquiry has increased the confidence of children with developmental delays. She believes that this is because they are enabled, through the flexibility of inquiry, to participate regardless of any barriers they usually face. She has found this especially true when the dispositions for learning are the key focus.
Jessica explains that her awareness of her role as an inquiry facilitator has developed as she noticed how quickly her interest and excitement in the world was transferred to the children. She takes every opportunity to show excitement and interest in any living creature or natural phenomenon. This sometimes means that she needs to overcome her own fears and that she needs to fully embrace inquiry in her life: “I find inquiry so much more fluid and easy to teach if I am challenging myself at home, questioning what I could be doing better, testing ideas, and being creative.”