Have you been using STEM challenges in your kindergarten class? I have and wow it’s made a huge impact with my kids. I didn’t really know much about STEM so I did a little research first. I discovered the engineering design process – it sounds intimidating but it’s actually what we do in kindergarten every day. Who knew we are basically scientists! The engineering design process is identifying a problem, brainstorming solutions, designing your idea, trying it out, and redesigning, and of course sharing what you’ve learned.
So once it didn’t sound so difficult, I decided to try it out. I had to make a couple of changes to make it work for my students, but we’re used to that. So I dug in and this is what I found
#1 Kids love stem. I mean they really love stem. Talk about hands on! It get the kids out of their seats and moving you can almost see the wheels turning in their heads.
#2 My behaviors decrease when I use challenges – read that one again. My challenging behaviors decrease. We all know that kids learn in different ways but this puts the money where our mouth is. Giving kids the ability to drive their own learning is powerful. There really isn’t a wrong answer. The whole point is to redesign. STEM is totally new to my students so no one knows what it’s “supposed” to look like. That is freeing to kids who have just finished all that DIBLES testing!
#3 It doesn’t take a ton of materials. I’ll be honest I thought I needed to spend a fortune at a craft store in order to make this work – not true. I took each challenge and thought about what I needed. I mostly get along with tape, straws and Popsicle sticks. You can do a TON with tape, straws, and Popsicle sticks.
#4 It’s PERFECT for collaboration. We all want our students to be able to “play nice” with each other. STEM gives them the opportunity to really work together to solve complex problems. They have to share materials, listen to each other’s idea, and develop a plan for success. I find even the most challenging kid does well during STEM. Why? Because it’s engaging. Being part of a fun activity is a powerful motivator. The kids know they need each other to succeed. I have 5th grade buddies, and STEM is my “go to” activity for them. My 5th graders can’t wait to come and see what we are building today.
#5 It can bring stories and experiences to life! My kids favorite STEM challenge is making a cage for the gingerbread man, or making a clothesline for mittens. Talk about story extensions.
If you’ll be reading the “Gingerbread Man” or the “Mitten” these are perfect for you.
#6 We want to prepare them for the future. Especially our girls, we need a new generation of scientist and innovators. When I ask my students what they want to be when they grow up – the vast majority of my boys say a basketball player, hockey play – you get the idea. I want them to see that the world has other options. To see themselves as engineers, scientists, innovators. The future Elon Musk might be in our class, we need to inspire them. When I was a girl (ok I know I’m aging myself but…) I only knew that girls could be teachers and nurses. Don’t get me wrong they are both amazing careers. But I want my girls to know they can be anything – do anything- create anything.
If you haven’t tried STEM now is the time. Do yourself a favor and give STEM a try! You won’t be sorry. You can check out some STEM activities here.