STEM at Ladybug
(Science -Technology – Engineering – Mathematics)
There are two types of learning: academic learning and intellectual learning. Most of us understand academic learning. It is the learning that takes place when children are engaged in memorizing, counting, reciting, and practicing. This learning takes no logic; it is just the stuff that we all need to know. Intellectual learning takes place when children are engaged in reasoning, predicting, hypothesizing, and problem-solving. This learning is hands-on and takes place every time a child is outside watching a worm crawl and asks: “what does he like to eat?” or when deciding to build a tower with every block in the block corner. Intellectual learning takes place during natural interactions with real things in the child’s environment. This is STEM.
Our knowledge about how children learn has grown substantially over the last few decades. We now understand that success in learning requires the learner to be at the center of the experiences, making connections across disciplines and also across contextual settings. Children need to have opportunities to learn the same material in different settings and through different lenses. The traditional approach of teaching topics in isolation does not support the ways children learn best.
STEM is a philosophy of how we approach learning. It requires that we, as educators, approach learning in a more connected and holistic way. At Ladybug, we will give children chances to investigate an idea in a variety of settings to encourage cross-contextual learning. For example, in addition to practice counting in group time, we will take students outside to practice counting real objects that they find, such as rocks, acorns, or leaves. Their learning is strengthened when they learn the same skills, ideas, and concepts in different contexts.
The Importance of Play
We can also blend math and science to make learning interdisciplinary using a STEM approach. Learning becomes more relevant when children go outside to explore nature. By asking the right questions, we can help stimulate investigations where students are identifying objects, making comparisons, making predictions, testing ideas, and sharing discoveries, all while observing their natural environment. Children will be exploring concepts of size, shape, patterns, and quantities in the process. In this way, they can learn concepts from different disciplines in different contexts, all in ways that are naturally engaging to them.
There are no greater natural scientists and engineers than young children. A high quality early learning environment can provide children with the structure in which to build upon their natural inclination to explore, to build, and to question. Once again it comes down to letting the children play!