With 16 years of experience in early childhood education, diploma-qualified Nadine is STEM leader and 3-4 room leader at Sweetpeas Kindergarten and Long Day Care Centre, St Clair, NSW.
Nadine believes in listening to children’s voices and supporting their choices. She is passionate about setting up engaging environments for the children and believes it is important to have access to additional materials. She often creates a loose parts table to fuel the children’s imagination and inquiry.
Nadine encourages colleagues to embrace inquiry-based STEM by showing them how inquiry-based learning is in everything, and that it is often the way in which the educators scaffold an experience that makes the difference. She gives the example of a child asking how they can make something go down the slide. By responding with “How do you think it would slide?” the educator can immediately make this an inquiry-based learning opportunity without planning, Nadine explains.
One of these everyday STEM moments Nadine experienced with the children was when they tried to build a tower with cardboard boxes. Nadine recounts how this simple but effective activity engaged all the children for over 1.5 hours, encouraged their vocabulary development, and promoted their understanding of height, gravity, location and wind.
Talking while playing with everyday toys can also be an inquiry-based experience. Nadine describes how she experienced this when playing with a marble run. The children hypothesised how far the marble would roll. What would happen if they used two marbles? The children enjoyed hypothesising and learning about the forces of physics behind the marble run.
Nadine has also observed that these experiences can help children overcome obstacles. During a colour change experiment, one of the older children was helping a child who doesn’t speak often. When the colour changed, the younger child gasped and said, “Oh, green!” The older child was delighted, “Wow, you do talk!” and immediately saw the implications. They told the educator, “Miss Nadine, you better do more experiments so Mia can talk to us.” The older child and Nadine realised that the younger child’s amazement at the colour change helped her overcome her anxiety.
All her amazing STEM experiences with the children have taught Nadine that, if she scaffolds the children’s learning experience instead of giving them answers, the children will come up with many answers themselves. “Listening is teaching,” she says.