Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

STEM learning outside

STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is something many people in education are talking about right now.  According to the STEM Education Coalition:

"The central mission of the STEM Education Coalition is to inform federal and state policymakers on the critical role that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education plays in U.S. competitiveness and future economic prosperity."

It's easy to see the importance and relevance of these subject at a high school or even junior high school level, but what does it look like in preschool?  What kind of engineering tasks can a 3 year old do?  Before they learn to read and to think logically, what kind of technology, science or math can a child be expected to know or to learn?  Is it even relevant at this age?

Yes!  Our children are capable and interested, if only we provide opportunities for them to explore.  I'm not an expert, but with 20 years experience working with young children, I have some ideas to bring to the table.  Here are some photos and quotes from the kiddos this week, about building with pipes.

I provided 12" sections of 1/2"plumbing pipe, and a variety of connectors.  At first I simply provided the materials at the water table, and stood back to see what would happen...

At first the kiddos tried a lot of things that obviously (to adult eyes) wouldn't work, like sticking two connectors to each other.

Slowly their creations took shape at the water table.
As the kids seemed intent on pouring water into the tubes, I tried making a gadget with a sloping pipe, and again, stood back to watch what would happen.  Sure enough, someone tried pouring water into it.
The water came out of the bottom of the tube!
Soon the children tried more pouring options, and collection containers were set up at the end of the pipe.
The kiddos cooperated to meet their goal: pouring water through the tube and catching it again at the end.
A toy watering can with a spout shaped mouth turned out to work better at directing the flow of water into the small pipe opening.
The collection bucket was full to overflowing.

Another day we used the pipes dry, on the driveway.  At first the kiddos built a structure together.
This is "The Statue of Liberty!"

Can you catch the water spraying up from the mister, if the pipe is also sloped upwards?  How can you find out?

"Look at my contraption.  It's a water pipe trap thing."

"A plunger!"

Later in the day we also had pipe telescopes, umbrellas and guitars... all kinds of creative play inspired by a couple of pieces of plumbing.  

Yes, preschool children are indeed scientists and creators.  By playing with the pipes and connectors, they figured out how to join them together to create structures.  They named their creations after objects they resembled, and found ways to play with them.  The children cooperated to achieve mutual goals, and experimented with ways to pour and move water, modifying their structures to reflect their discoveries.  This was science and engineering learning, at a preschool level.  (But please don't tell the children, they just think we were having fun!)

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