Joshua Brennan is a diploma-qualified educator at Kirrawee Child Care Centre, NSW, and is currently studying for his Bachelor of Primary Education with an early childhood specialisation. His professional interests are in pre-school, STEM, natural elements, Aboriginal cultural perspectives, engineering, biology, physics, and chemistry.
Joshua believes that child-led, inquiry-based practices are important in early childhood as they give children an avenue to explore the world around them in a way that they would like to. In STEM practices that are not led by the child and instead facilitated only by the educator, children are not able to gather and develop an understanding of their world. STEM requires children to be active in their learning, able to hypothesise and experiment, make mistakes, and then learn from their mistakes.
“A moment that captures the wonder and joy of STEM for myself and the children is seeing their faces switch from smiles to concentration as they move through experimentation in a project and test the different questions either posed by myself, another child, another educator, or even themselves,” Joshua says.
Joshua experienced one of these moments while supporting a child who was attempting to build a large wall that kept collapsing every time it reached a certain height. Joshua sat down with the child, who was feeling quite distressed, and asked him to show how he was building it. When the wall fell again, he asked the child why it fell and the response was, “Because it’s too wobbly. How do we stop it wobbling?” Joshua took the child outside and showed him a brick wall at the centre and asked him why this wall hadn’t fallen down. The child and educator agreed that cement and bricks made the wall sturdier, but then Joshua drew the boy’s attention to the placement of the bricks, a running bond where the bricks start in the centre of the brick below, rather than being stacked directly on top of one another. They went inside and built a wall with this brick pattern and were excited to be able to build past the height at which the wall usually collapsed and kept going until they were out of blocks.
Through his experiences with inquiry-based STEM learning, Joshua has become increasingly aware of his role as a facilitator for children’s discoveries rather than leading them directly towards their discoveries.