Rama Mavuri has 18+ years of experience in early childhood education. She holds a Bachelor’degree in Education, a Diploma in Montessori Teaching, a Post Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education, Business Administration and English. Her research interests include the relation between teaching-learning, assessment processes and curriculum practices with special emphasis on early childhood education.
‘85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet,’ says a report titled ‘Realising 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future’ published by Dell Technologies.
The increasing reliance on technology is opening the path to a true partnership between humans and machines, resulting in automation in areas where human intervention was considered indispensable, such as in medicine and education. Technological education should not simply be another subject to gain knowledge of; rather, it should be integrated with other subjects along with real-life examples to enable critical thinking and problem-solving. Further, students should be given access to online sources of knowledge and new technological tools to propel self-driven initiatives, facilitated by hands-on and project-based learning.
STEM education and its benefits
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is an experiential learning approach to science, which emphasises the application of scientific and mathematical concepts in real-life situations. It can groom the next generation to meet the needs of the industry – problem-solving skills and development of quick and cost-effective solutions. The core content of STEM education comprises robotics, information systems, free open-source software, new technological applications, electronic appliances, and engineering design processes used in a transdisciplinary platform along with the basic concepts of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and information technology.
Here are some reasons why STEM education is beneficial not only to students pursuing careers in science but also to the younger generation who could be taught to solve any problem in a scientific way:
- STEM education is a research-backed curriculum built on the principle of 5 Cs — critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and career-readiness.
- It ensures information and technology literacy and IT fluency — students become fluent at coding with the help of advanced programming applications where they do not have to memorise syntax. This serves the dual purpose of being creative and IT fluent.
- The incorporation of real-world scenarios ensures that students can relate the concepts taught to examples from their own lives and hence, find learning more interesting.
- STEM education consists of a spiral curriculum, which ensures revisiting concepts throughout the curriculum so that students can remember them and utilise them according to their needs.
- STEM education ensures the interconnection of technology and mathematics with other subjects.
Early years of education and STEM
Numerous researches have claimed that the experiences that a child gains in their early years design their brain architecture. In other words, brain development is most robust in the initial years of a child’s life. Therefore, it is the best time to introduce basic STEM education to help spark their curiosity and inquiry and promote the development of assessment and analytical skills.
Importance of interactive early education for STEM literacy
The Center for Childhood Creativity has conducted research and viewed more than 150 empirical studies from cognitive and developmental psychology and education. The research has talked about the significance of interactive early education and how it helps for STEM literacy. The research-backed findings say:
Children need to play more to become strong STEM thinkers
Children learn by playing. Through play – be it building, board games, or magic-tricks, children learn about worldly affairs and how the world works. This practice develops their brain plasticity for life-long learning which is essential for STEM education. The guided plays, where the participation of adults are required help shaping the learning experience of children and has been shown as an effective method for teaching STEM content to young learners. Such plays gradually develop the leadership qualities of children, as the child generally takes the lead and adults follow the rule in these games. If adults keep asking frequent logical and funny questions, the process can enhance children’s thinking skills and play a significant role in their brain development.
Communication enables STEM thinking
While children engage in STEM experiences, they get introduced to new words. Accumulation of new words further enriches their vocabulary. Growing vocabularies help children to express complex ideas better. This is not all, early exposure to new words pertaining to different concepts support them to master higher-order thinking.
Apart from it, communication between adults and children enhance STEM thinking of young minds. Adults can shoot mindful questions to young learners or initiate a meaningful conversation with children in order to nourish their thinking skills. Spatial reasoning is known as the capacity to envision and manipulate objects in space. It is a necessary skill for mathematics and engineering. This special skill can be developed through such communication.
Interaction helps to unlock the abstract thinking potential
According to modern research, children can grapple with abstract ideas. Their thought process can reach beyond concrete thinking if they are challenged and supported well to do so. Their ideas and imagination are not restricted to only their first-hand experience. Children with developed executive function skills (EFs) incorporate new information well and easily ignore irrelevant information during abstract problem-solving. Such actions and strong EFs are very much required for long-term STEM success. Therefore, if the right set of questions are posed to them, they can easily solve the complex problem which can unlock their abstract thinking potential.
These findings demonstrate that interactions during early years play a vital role in STEM learning. Children can have well-designed STEM experiences in both schools and outside school premise and adults play a critical role by challenging children in age-appropriate ways. By focusing on interactive learning during the elementary years, parents and facilitators can help young learners to meet the best learning outcome and help them to be future-ready for a STEM-rich world.