A movement in Australia to introduce science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to students as early as kindergarten is the right way to get them interested in these subjects, the team at building set toy company Click-A-Brick says.
In a column for the Canberra Times, school curriculum and technology integration specialist Dr. Jane Hunter of the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney wrote that if schools want children to become interested in the STEM fields as they grow, they’ll need to introduce these concepts in kindergarten.
“Beginning that skill and knowledge development in STEM with students in the very early years at school seems pressing. By all reports, it is too late once they have reached high school. ... Piquing the curiosity of children in primary schools is where interest and skill development in STEM subjects must commence,” Hunter wrote.
Hunter outlined a teaching workshop she participated in that, among other things, had students looking at the way objects move. As part of the lesson, kindergarten students observed how a certain toy moved and then took the toy apart to see why it moved the way it did. The students were “engrossed” by taking apart the toys to see what made them move, the curriculum expert said. The children also used mobile devices in their learning, using various apps that allowed them to animate photographs of objects they took pictures of.
The education specialist also said that the Australian government would need to put more funding into teacher professional development and upgrades to school software and hardware.
Starting students as young as kindergarten in STEM curriculum activities is the right way to introduce them to these important educational concepts, Click-A-Brick Co-Founders Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza say.
“Introducing STEM curriculum in kindergarten will go a long way toward getting students interested in them,” Smith said. “It’s the perfect age to do it, really. People are never more curious about things and they never learn as easily as when they’re children. They want to know everything about everything and getting them doing little science experiments or discovering the way things work will use their already natural curiosity and learning capability to kickstart a real interest in these fields.”
Hunter concluded her column by saying “parents too must take their part in positively valuing and encouraging the study of STEM subjects at all levels of their child's education.”
To help encourage an interest in the STEM fields even prior to kindergarten, parents can get the right toys for their children, the entrepreneurs say. Toys like building sets get children interested in the way things are put together and, together with the right curriculum at their school, can help spur interest in STEM skills.
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