Table of Contents
- What is STEM?
- The Importance of STEM at the Kindergarten Level
- Designing STEM Curriculum For Kindergarten
- Skills Learned by Kids Through Effective STEM Curriculum for Kindergarten
- How to Integrate STEM into Kindergarten Curriculum
- Learn more about STEM with STEM Sports®
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym used when talking about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This commonly known term is often used when discussing education, curriculum, and the workforce.
The Importance of STEM at the Kindergarten Level
There has been an increased focus on STEM and its importance in the education space in recent years. Especially at the elementary level, parents, educators, and facilitators are highlighting the need for quality STEM education.
Introducing students to STEM early in their education promotes comfort and confidence in these disciplines. STEM Jobs are projected to grow by 11 percent between 2019 and 2029. This increase is higher than in any other work field. The rapid job increase in these areas highlights the need for educators to provide students with STEM curricula that will help them become innovative thinkers and problem-solvers. In this article, STEM Sports® has created a comprehensive guide for how to create and implement a STEM curriculum with kindergarten students.
Designing STEM Curriculum For Kindergarten
Creating and implementing a new curriculum in the classroom takes work. Oftentimes, educators get caught worrying about how effective the lesson will be, if students are going to enjoy themselves and if they know the key concepts in the lesson.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to design a STEM curriculum for kindergarten students. By following these simple steps, educators can create lesson plans to use in the classroom, during summer camps, at home, or during after school programs.
Choose A STEM Concept
The first thing to be decided when creating a STEM curriculum is the STEM subject of focus. Especially at the kindergarten level, having too many concepts can make the lesson difficult to follow and overwhelming for students.
Start by choosing one of the four subject areas:
Choose What Concept the Lesson Will Focus On
It is important to decide what you want students to learn and take away from this activity before deciding how you want to facilitate the lesson If you are looking for which concept to choose, it can be helpful to see what aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards (CCSS), or K-12 Physical Education Standards. For example, science – density.
Decide How to Facilitate the Lesson
When deciding how to facilitate the lesson with your students, it can be helpful to review some of the most common and effective methods. Below is a list of teaching methods that can be used to implement STEM with your kindergarten students:
This method utilizes in-person instruction where students interact with what they are learning. Especially in STEM subjects, hands-on learning has been proven to increase retention and comprehension.
This learning method connects multiple subjects to give students a deeper understanding of what they are learning and allows them to exercise their ability to connect concepts to the world around them. For example, connecting science to a literature lesson or a book students are reading.
Small Group Instruction
Small group instruction focuses on children working together on a lesson to come to one final conclusion. This helps to improve 21st century skills such as teamwork, collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills.
Teacher-led learning starts with teachers explaining the lesson and the key takeaways. Students will work through the lesson, with the teacher as a resource when necessary.
Find Real World Connections and Examples
Real world examples in education are extremely powerful. They help students witness learning connections in real life situations. It also helps them apply what they are learning to the world around them – a skill that is essential as students progress in their education.
Create a Worksheet, Pre-Test, and Post-Test
Creating a worksheet is a great way for students to track their progress on a lesson and note key takeaways. They can also be used to reference later in the school year when preparing for tests or quizzes. These worksheets can be basic and not graded by teachers. It is beneficial for students to learn good study habits not tied to a grade, alleviating stressful interactions early in their education.
Similarly, it is helpful when there are pre and post tests in place for a lesson. These are beneficial to students and also help educators measure classroom comprehension. These assessments show what students understand and what needs to be discussed more before moving on to the next lesson.
Implement and Have Fun
This step seems simple; however, it is very important to remember. When it is time to implement this lesson in your classroom – have fun! Things do not have to go perfectly for students to have fun and learn. It is okay to pivot midway through and note things to change in future lessons. As educators, we are always learning and things do not always go according to plan. Students will appreciate the fun, creative new lesson plans and opportunities to learn!
Skills Learned by Kids Through Effective STEM Curriculum for Kindergarten
STEM learning has various benefits for students in their education and personal lives. Below is a list of ways that implementing STEM education with kindergarten students can benefit them now and in the future.
Committee for Children® describes social emotional learning (SEL) as, “the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.” People with high SEL have been known to have lower stress levels and a higher ability to deal with the challenges of everyday life. By exercising these skills with students early in their lives, we are setting them up for success during the more stressful years of their education.
Helps to Improve 21st Century Skills
21st century skills refer to a set of traits that help people personally, socially, and professionally. These skills have been linked back to people who are successful socially and in their career. In recent years, interviewers have noted that 21st century soft skills are just as important as hard skills when evaluating a candidate. Below is a list of some of the most commonly discussed 21st century skills:
- Critical Thinking
Gives Students Education Application Experience
Students spend the first 18-22 years of their life learning in a traditional classroom environment. This includes homework, exams, projects, and standardized tests. Oftentimes missed is the real world application of knowledge. This is something educators are now putting an emphasis on due to its importance in daily life and future careers.
For example, conducting a building block assignment with your kindergarten class. Alone, this lesson holds value for students beginning their STEM education. However, there is a great opportunity to connect this to bridges, things in the classroom, and other items around students that engineers have designed and constructed. After pointing these items out, ask students how these inventions impact their daily lives!
Encourages Technology Literacy
Students interact with technology every day. This is often misunderstood as technology literacy. Technology interaction is not the same as students understanding the inner workings of technology and the major role it plays in society. This deeper understanding and ability to utilize technology in a classroom setting is a skill that will benefit students throughout their lives.
Encourages Creative Thinking and Experimentation
STEM encourages students to go outside their comfort zone and explore different possibilities and outcomes. The ability to think creatively is something that will help students regardless of their future profession. There are studies that show innovative, creative thinkers are more sought after during the interview process.
Promotes Scientific Literacy
Scientific literacy is the ability to analyze scientific processes, results, and applications. At STEM Sports®, we refer to this as cognition ignition! Early exposure to science concepts allows students to understand these complex ideas on a deeper level.
How to Integrate STEM into Kindergarten Curriculum
There are numerous benefits to implementing a STEM curriculum in kindergarten classrooms. This early exposure to STEM concepts will benefit students in their education, personal lives, and future careers. The integration into a classroom curriculum can be subtle and can increase as students become more comfortable with the subjects.
The most important thing to remember when implementing STEM early in childhood education is to keep things fun! Changing the topic, facilitator, and environment are great ways to keep students engaged and excited about their STEM literacy.
Learn more about STEM with STEM Sports®
Are you a parent or educator looking for more information on STEM education and the benefit it has on children in early education? Read the following blogs to learn more: