The Importance of STEM in Childhood Education
STEM is the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics that fuses some of the most important subjects of the 21st century with practical, real-world learning opportunities.
Overview of STEM Education
To succeed in this ever-changing society as globalization continues to increase, STEM education provides the foundation to learn and develop skills that will shape our future.
These disciplines pave the way for a healthy environment, productive citizens, and a prosperous future.
This isn’t hard, as kids are naturally inquisitive little wonders. They are constantly trying to make sense of the world around them by taking things apart, putting objects in their mouth, or exploring different places, even those that they shouldn’t be in.
The next stage for these kids is to get a formal education. However, when they are placed in an assembly-line system of education that forces them to memorize statistics or write words over 21 times, those curiosities tend to wear off.
It comes as no surprise that the push for STEM education in early childhood is essential to their development. Students and professionals alike are learning that individual comprehension is far more important than robotic memorization.
STEM Encourages Independence
STEM enhances individual skills and independence by utilizing real-world scenarios to grow and augment developmental minds.
By teaching young learners the value of real-world problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, they gain a sense of independence not seen in other subject areas.
With experimentation comes the endless possibilities of what most people view as failure. By embracing STEM education, it isn’t simply embracing the fusion of these subjects. Still, we’re empowering kids to persevere through failure and to see it as a gift for when they do achieve the outcome they so diligently strived for.
Instead of rewarding students for getting 100% on a test, it is long overdue to reward students for seeking unique and creative ways to solve real-world problems.
How the World Views STEM Education
The worlds of Science and Engineering have different values than a traditional educational system. A scientist wouldn’t get punished if he discovered how to cure cancer “too late”; he would be rewarded for discovering a new form to combat a vile disease.
As Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Continual curiosity and rigid perseverance are only some of the competencies that are paired with STEM education.
Those who study STEM skills not only gain individual and independent skills, but it is also where the future job industry is navigating towards.
It helps build the foundation of learners for many occupations that highlight transferable skills, including collaboration, coordination, and communication.
Even the major STEM fields need to work together to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. Imagine attempting to engineer a design for infrastructure without using the discoveries of Science, the applications of Mathematics, or the use of Technology?
It’d be impossible, so why delay our future youth from experiencing these as early as possible.
STEM in Practice
How often do schools provide the opportunity for continuous curiosity or independence? Sure, it exists, but is it designed to be practiced that way?
The moment a student asks an off-topic question, they are immediately redirected. If they discovered the answer to a test taken two months ago, would they receive any points, or would the teacher simply say, “you need to channel that energy into future tests to make a difference?”
Seriously, think for a second as to which scenario would be more likely when you were in school.
Traditionally, Mathematics and Science have always been taught in schools, so many may believe they are already embedded in STEM learning. Even if technology is taught in a school, it’s typically in a separate classroom where kids sit at a computer for the duration of the class.
Also, notice how I haven’t even brought up Engineering because no one even views it as a subject area in and of itself. STEM in practice is a nuanced discipline that provides values that should be distributed throughout the entire education system.
Integrated STEM education is the legitimate connection between these disciplines in a K-12 educational system.
It heavily relies on the school leaders and teachers to connect the dots for students, especially at a young age. STEM values hands-on experimentation, problem-solving, and ingenuity.
Teachers are encouraged to design instructional approaches that include all of these developments. Students will need to realize how STEM applies to all facets of life as they are being exposed to it through museums, field trips, or even recess.
A world class athlete can definitely practice his or her way to expertise, but many make a true leap when they focus on the mechanics of their own physicality. STEM is everywhere you look; the mission is now to open the eyes of everyone to it.
Learning Through Self-Discovery
Kids love teaching based on their own experiences of self-discovery. If ever in a classroom and a technology issue occurs, prepare to be amazed.
All of a sudden every student has their own solution on how to solve the problem to the point where you have to elect only 1-2 students to fix it, or risk having the entire class fidgeting with the wiring.
Even after the problem is solved, they’ll continue to tell you the story of how they realized that was a problem for them and how they were able to solve it.
It’s not a wonder that all of a sudden, every kid will participate as opposed to when you ask them when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Kids love discovering. They love problem-solving!
Kids love sharing about their discovery and problem solving. They simply need the avenue and a cultivated environment for it to flourish.
Every kid engages in STEM learning, and it is the job of the people around them to help them realize this. People may think that kids will get down on themselves if they don’t get the result they want, but that is a learned behavior from constant scolding and ridicule.
When children do not get the result they want, they’ll naturally find a way to solve it. If not, children collaborate with others until they do. Self-discovery is innate within our youth, but they need to feel comfortable to let their true selves shine.
How Should STEM Be Incorporated Into Early Childhood Education?
STEM is naturally configured in early childhood education, but people may not have even realized.
If there were legos or building blocks in a preschool or elementary classroom, then they naturally have developed this education. The only fallback may be that there has not been a strong enough focus on STEM learning and communal activities.
Legos and building blocks are used as a break-time activity instead of being infused into their daily learning. With the continued advancement of STEM activities, students’ practical reasoning skills will continue to soar.
The importance of STEM is universally known, especially with traditional subjects leading the way including Science and Mathematics, but how do we expand on this to fully include Technology and Engineering?
How the Educational World Can Help
How can the educational world provide funding that bolsters the fusion of all of these fields? Most importantly, how will it look in a typical classroom for Kindergarteners? 4th graders? 11th graders?
It may take a complete restructuring of how we categorize classes, learning activities, and even assess the students. The daily schedule doesn’t have to be a complete shift of thought to a “Mathematics” activity, but instead, teachers will understand the importance of lessons that build on each other.
Even exterior subjects such as Social Studies or Language Arts can be infused by developing a catapult from Medieval Times or studying the numerical patterns within poetry.
Assessments should be redesigned to reflect major STEM values, including creativity, perseverance, and discovery. There needs to be an educational adjustment that values the process more than the product.
Incorporating STEM into early childhood education is a gargantuan task, yet very achievable. By utilizing hands-on experiential learning, students are in a much better position than in years past.
Even at younger ages, STEM activities can help enhance their motor schools and hand-eye coordination.
By channelling STEM learning at a preschool and early elementary age, they will be more prepared to take their learning to a completely different level by the time they reach intermediate, middle, and even high school.
Making every student STEM-literate is a necessity in this ever-changing complex world.
Societal Benefits of STEM Education
STEM has always been examined and lauded amongst educational learners and professionals for centuries.
People loved to hear of the scientifically genius minds of Albert Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci, but they were ostracized as anomalies.
The difference between the 21st-century and every other one is that STEM is making a strong push to be enraptured in an international systematic educational approach.
The Value of STEM
The value and importance of STEM in a traditional educational setting are growing monumental support, and rightfully so.
The increased value of STEM learning is already paying off from a human standpoint. STEM education is necessary to promote economic development, international competitiveness, and job creation.
With an emphasis on new skills and new opportunities, the significance of STEM education is limitless.
Around the world, gender differences in the field of STEM present a huge gap in employment and opportunities.
When students are presented with STEM at a young age, this provides the world with an opportunity to bridge the gap between genders, socioeconomic status, and among international countries.
The world is ready for everyone to have an equal opportunity to become scientists, doctors, engineers, and economists.
STEM Preparation for the Future
It’s impossible to know for sure what the future will look like, but it is safe to say that society won’t thrive without Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Not only does it lead to overarching societal benefits, but it can contribute to individual needs by enhancing knowledge of hygiene, health, and agriculture. Simply put, the world will be a better place by emphasizing more importance to STEM education at an early age.
STEM is necessary to meet the modern and future demands for the workplace and beyond. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected job growth for STEM employment is projected to increase by 17%, while earning up to 26% more than those without a STEM education.
Innovation and advancements need to be outlined by our current educational system to be prepared for the future.