With 16 years of experience, Sanju is a diploma-qualified childcare aide at Erskine Park Children’s Centre, NSW, who has participated in Little Scientists’ Optics and Engineering workshops.
Like theorist John Dewey, Sanju believes that children should be involved in real-life tasks and challenges, and that children can learn from a simple daily task. In her experience, it is important to incorporate the children’s interests in STEM experiences, and to recognise that all questions deserve critical investigation – leading to lots of spontaneous STEM activities in the classroom. For example, when a child asked, “Why do stickers fall off my hand?”, the group conducted an experiment, mind- mapped possibilities, and produced an answer that everyone agreed with.
Sanju organises a STEM Day every month for her colleagues so they can plan their teaching based on a subject that the children have shown an interest in. She has also invited other centres from the community and finds this an effective way to demonstrate what STEM education looks like and to encourage the implementation of this in different centres, creating a collaborative and supportive STEM education environment.
It fills Sanju with joy when the children can apply their knowledge to new situations. The children conduct many simple experiments regularly, such as mixing colours. Once during an arts and craft painting activity, they ran out of green paint and one of the children suggested, “We can easily make green by mixing yellow and blue,” after recalling a previous STEM activity.
When the children were washing their hands following an experiment that involved oil and noticed that they were sticky and slippery, Sanju extended their observation with a few experiments: first, they washed their hands with water only and then wiped them with a paper towel, which did not remove all the oil. Then, they used soap to wash it off and discovered that their hands were not sticky or slippery anymore. The children were delighted to see the outcome and learned why they use soap every day to clean their hands.
Sanju summarises her experience implementing STEM learning in her daily practice: “Ultimately, engaging in STEM has allowed me to grow as an educator by learning alongside the children, working collaboratively with them to investigate and inquire about the world around us. This has helped me develop more flexible thinking and a new outlook on how to best teach and learn.”