STEM is much more than an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. It's about teaching children inquiry-based learning, so they know how to ask the right questions and how to answer them authentically. We often focus in on one academic area of STEM when teaching, but science, technology, engineering, and math are meant to come together as a whole to encourage higher-level thinking. By providing hands-on experiences with open-ended materials that incorporate STEM components, children become prepared for the world in which they live. They develop the valuable 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity by engaging in exploration and learning how things work.
Having the right tools and materials available in the classroom plays an important role in providing high-quality STEM experiences for children. Use the blocks and building materials, simple machines, magnets and magnifiers, and other tools and materials below to support inquiry-based learning and exploration.
Create a space that encourages inquiry-based learning and supports STEM experiences with these tables, posters, carpets, and mats that serve as foundational tools for STEM. Whether you choose to design a STEM center for your classroom or just choose a few pieces to add in other areas of the classroom, these foundational tools will lay the groundwork for STEM adventures.
Building with blocks and other building materials helps children learn about science, math, engineering, and technology through hands-on experiences. As children plan, organize, and follow through with their visions, they learn how many blocks it takes to build and stabilize their structures and how to create a real-world environment around their design.
Simple machines are the most basic form of technology and have a variety of real-world applications that make our lives easier. As children experiment with levers, pulleys, screws, wedges, inclined planes, and wheels and axles, they'll develop a better understanding of how simple machines work and how different factors, such as incline and force, affect end results.
Magnets and magnifiers are fun and engaging scientific tools that provide children with an in-depth view of the world around them. Through open-ended exploration, children can discover details not visible to the naked eye and investigate how magnets repel and attract. These basic tools are essential in helping children develop early STEM skills that support extended learning.
Coding is a fundamental 21st century skill that all children need to learn because many of the jobs in today's world require coding knowledge. Learning to code teaches children how technology works and how to interact with it. Coding also teaches children about process and sequencing and helps them develop critical thinking skills. Another benefit is that creating an animation or programming a robot makes learning fun, and it doesn't have to be hard to learn or teach.
Learning about shapes and spatial relations and developing the skills needed to measure a variety of objects are essential to children's understanding of early math skills. In addition to helping children understand the world around them, these foundational skills will also lay the groundwork for helping children learn skills and concepts in other areas of STEM.
Exploring STEM careers through dramatic play gives children opportunities to try out different roles and learn about STEM-related careers. It's also a great opportunity to spark children's interest in STEM and create positive experiences that help lay the foundation for a future love of STEM as children grow older and learn more STEM skills.
Taking STEM outdoors sets the stage for fun adventures and experiences that incorporate the five senses. Having tools and materials that support outdoor STEM learning gives children the opportunity to explore their natural environment and see real-world applications of STEM.
From light cubes and sensory materials to book sets and STEM journals, there are a variety of additional STEM materials that would be valuable additions to your classroom and lesson plans.
Resource books provide easily accessible ideas and activities for educators to incorporate into their lesson plans. Building the foundation for inquiry-based play and learning is much easier if you have valuable resources you can use to complement and support your own plans and ideas.