Announcing New Tools for Our Youngest Scientists and Engineers
By Kara Dukakis, Libby Doggett & Linda K. Smith
As a parent, caregiver or educator, you may have noticed how a child’s face lights up when he discovers a butterfly sipping nectar from a flower or when she proudly shows you the tall tower of blocks she constructed, each piece thoughtfully placed to balance without falling. During the early years when children begin to develop language and social skills, they’re also learning about early science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through play and everyday interactions with their parents, caregivers and other children. When a parent sings “Wheels on the Bus” with their child or a preschool teacher sets out different kinds of seeds or leaves for children to examine and explore, for example, they are helping a child build the foundation for a lifelong love of STEM.
Our challenge is: how can we support families and communities to make those moments happen more often?
Today, the White House is convening researchers and educators and government, business and other leaders to explore ways we can nurture our future scientists and engineers starting from the moment they are born.
To support STEM in the early years, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have partnered with Too Small to Fail to create a set of early STEM resources for families and educators. The “Let’s Talk, Read and Sing About STEM!” tip sheets build on the successful “Talk, Read, and Sing Together Every Day!” tip sheets and aim to transform small moments into big opportunities for our littlest innovators. These new tip sheets are filled with ideas for STEM conversations that can take place during everyday routines.
The “Let’s Talk, Read and Sing about STEM!” resources include:
• Tip sheet for families
• Tip sheets for infant/toddler teachers and preschool teachers
• “Let’s Talk About the World” poster
All tip sheets are also available in Spanish.
Children learn STEM skills through exploration, play, asking questions, about the world and the way things work, and interacting with adults and other children. Many of the tips include activities that parents and teachers already do with young children, but they help adults use the language of STEM to understand that even a simple game of peek-a-boo teaches spatial awareness! We hope the resources encourage parents and caregivers to keep engaging with their children, and find some new ways to integrate STEM into every day routines.
STEM learning is a critical part of child development and can happen anytime, anywhere. The real-life skills that children learn when exploring STEM help make them better problem-solvers and thinkers. Today’s block builder is tomorrow’s engineer.
Libby Doggett is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education, Linda K. Smith is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early childhood Development at the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Kara Dukakis is the Director of Too Small to Fail at the Opportunity Institute.
Open Discussion on the Role of Education Technologies in Early Childhood STEM Education
On April 21st, the U.S. Department of Education came together with the White House and numerous public and private partners to announce our shared commitment to improving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in early learning (Preschool – 3rd Grade). Early engagement in STEM is critical for our youngest learners because opportunity gaps in STEM can begin prior to preschool—and they can continue grow as students progress through school. There are a host of ways that the public and private sectors can partner to better address this STEM opportunity gap in early learning, such as integrating STEM with the arts and literacy, and using education technologies including screen media (e.g., television, computers, videogames, tablets). We believe that the use of technology can be an important tool for closing these gaps when used intentionally and appropriately in conjunction with other forms of pedagogy.
The U.S. Department of Education would like to initiate a discussion with the early learning and STEM communities on how best to engage and support parents, caregivers, educators, researchers and developers on how to eliminate opportunity gaps in early childhood STEM education, especially by leveraging education technologies. This conversation will inform federal policy decisions in the coming months.
Read more and leave a comment. Please submit your comments and questions in this open forum by 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, May 13, 2016.