“When it comes to STEM, there is always some sort of a process involved,” said Barb Shaw, TK – 8th grade STEM and Computer Applications teacher. “Whether it’s engaging in scientific inquiry or collaborating on a design component, we lay out a process to serve as a roadmap for working toward a solution.”
Wise words … and words you might think are directed toward older Elementary students. But this is the same concept that Mrs. Shaw teaches SVC Kindergarteners — in an age-appropriate way — when they walk into her STEM lab each week.
It is easy for students, especially the youngest learners, to want jump from “the problem” right to “the solution.” And while successful outcomes are always desirable, students (like all people) tend to learn more by actually walking through a process than simply by getting to the answer.
“I want to nurture a ‘scientific brain of observation’ in our students — one which is inquisitive,” said Mrs. Shaw. To help accomplish this, she encourages her Kindergarteners to ask lots of questions, especially questions about structure (what is this made of?) and function (what does this do?).
As an example, she uses the story of The Three Little Pigs. Kindergarteners discuss the structure of each house — straw, sticks and bricks. And they discuss how each house is likely to function, making predictions about which will hold up best when the Big Bad Wolf tries to blow the houses down.
Students sketch out (design) each of the three houses. Then Mrs. Shaw puts them into three teams, with each team building a different type of structure. As you can imagine, the initial reaction from a Kindergartener is to want to be on the BRICK team. But students are encouraged to embrace the process of building a straw or stick house, even though it is more likely to fall down. “I want them to understand that failing is normal,” said Mrs. Shaw. “When we fail, we make adjustments and try again. This isn’t just true in the STEM lab, it’s true in life. I’m blessed by how our Kindergarteners embrace this important life lesson and encourage one another in it.”
The importance of “process” extends to other areas in the STEM lab — from Kindergarten-level coding exercises to hands-on learning with various STEM tools in the lab, such as Cubelets® Robot Blocks. By breaking things down into steps, students begin to understand that they can solve almost any challenge …even at the “ripe old age” of 5.
To learn more about the Elementary/Jr. High STEM lab at SVC, please click here.