STEM is pronounced the way it is spelled and is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It is a model of science instruction that has been around for a while, but there is a new trend in its application. Based on findings from the congressionally chartered National Research Council, which claims we underestimate young children’s ability to think abstractly, the STEM method is now being used to teach preschoolers.
Have you seen the TV commercial that flashes this startling line across the screen: “Did you know that 85 percent of the brain is developed before kindergarten?” Well, if that is the case, you have to feel the urgency to do something meaningful for your preschooler’s education.
From birth, babies are interpreting and reacting to the world around them using intuitive math and science skills. For example, a 9-month-old demonstrates some sense of number when looking at a picture of two circles at the moment two drumbeats are played.
“Sesame Street” has already answered the call with new programming for 2- and 3-year-olds based on the STEM method. Locally, the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center is offering The STEM Academy for Preschoolers. Using topics such as astronomy, ecology and architecture, 4- and 5-year-olds are invited to use higher level thinking skills as they observe, explore and discover how things work.
Although we often view our precious toddlers as a source of family entertainment because they do tend to say “the darnedest things,” maybe we should be listening more thoughtfully and responding more appropriately … after a good laugh! Take the scenario of the mother and her 3-year-old son grocery shopping at their local supermarket. The little boy reaches for a box of animal crackers on the shelf when his mother stops him, admonishing, “Don’t take that box, the seal is broken.” Her young son proceeds to take and open the box of animal crackers anyway. “What are you doing!” the mother responds harshly. The little boy, being such a smart little cookie, answers, “I want to see if the seal inside the box is really broken.”