What do we know about STEAM in early childhood education?

The term STEM was developed by the National Science Foundation in the early 2000’s as an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education. The addition of the ‘A’ for Arts was made in recent years to promote the integration and use of the arts in STEM curriculum.

The focus on STEM curriculum areas has grown out of concerns that math and science achievement in the United States lags behind that of other countries. Results from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (the most recent data available) showed that the U.S. ranked 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. NAEP

Supporting STEM learning in early childhood has far-reaching benefits. Several studies have shown that children’s mathematics achievement at kindergarten entry predicts later math and literacy achievement even more than early literacy ability does. High-quality STEM experiences provide young children with opportunities to develop critical thinking, executive functioning, and problem-solving skills that cut across subject areas (within and outside of STEM subjects) and that build a foundation for how they approach learning and thinking in the future.

Train Conductor George with tilted hat

Children’s attitudes about STEM and about themselves as STEM learners are formed early. Children’s earliest experiences with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics set the stage for their later engagement and success in those fields. If they are not exposed to high-quality early STEM experiences, they may lose interest in STEM topics or lose confidence that they can “do” STEM.

Young children are natural STEM investigators. Children are constantly asking questions about and investigating the world around them. If you spend 5 minutes with a 3- to 6- year old and you will witness how their inherent curiosity leads them towards STEM inquiry: “How can I make my block tower real tall-but not fall over?” “How does that log float on top of the lake?” “How can we all get the same number of cookies?” Research shows that children entering kindergarten already have a lot of knowledge about the natural world, including concepts related to physics, biology, psychology, and chemistry.

Adding the Arts to Stem gives children the opportunity to demonstrate STEM concepts in creative ways. They can create graphs, build models, illustrate STEM ideas with crayons or markers, or express their learning through descriptive language, stories, music, and dance.

Our 2018 Summer Camp “Full STEAM Ahead with Georgetown Hill!” will take infants through school-agers on a journey through hands-on exploration of STEAM concepts. Check out more information about our weekly STEAM camp themes here.

About the Author - Shannon Moodie

Shannon Moodie blog photo - WebWe love Shannon because she is kind, motivated, and super passionate about Early Childhood Education! She also really knows her stuff – she’s certified as a teacher with a Master’s Degree in early education policy and did research for 8 years in early childhood development. We’re especially happy that Shannon’s two adorable children attend our Apple Ridge campus; it’s a family affair there and we love it.