Why STEM learning in Preschool?
According to the Children’s Learning Research Collaborative at The Ohio State
University, “Mathematics and science learning is critical during the early childhood years, and has long-term associations with school readiness and continued academic achievement.” “Contrary to past thoughts, recent investigations show that preschoolers are capable and eager to learn mathematics and science concepts, serving as an important precursor for later academic achievements. Young children are curious about the world and ask questions, and talk about both science and mathematics before they enter school.
With respect to mathematics, in particular, infants understand fundamental concepts, such as more and less, and during the preschool years, they begin counting, adding and subtracting, and using spatial concepts which are indicative of continued mathematics learning as well as later literacy abilities. Several studies suggest that providing preschoolers with a solid foundation of basic mathematics skills facilitates mastery of new, developing skills, and the fine-tuning of already existing ones. With respect to science, young children demonstrate the capacity for learning basic science knowledge,
Such as observing and investigating highlighting that young children should learn eight ‘process skills,’ including observing, describing, comparing, questioning, predicting, experimenting, reflecting, and cooperating, before entering school, which are critical for continued academic success.”
This converging evidence that preschool children can and should learn about
Mathematics and science is reflected in updated early learning standards. For instance, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, and the National
Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) published a joint position statement
which emphasized the need for effective, high-quality mathematics education for children between the ages of three and six (NAEYC and NCTM, 2010). In addition to such national standards, some individual states have created their own mathematics and science learning standards. One example is the State of Ohio, the state in which the current investigation was conducted. Ohio’s early learning mathematics standards highlight number, number sense, and operations; measurement; geometry and spatial sense; algebra and patterning; and data analysis. Science-related standards include three main content areas (life science, physical science, and earth/space science) as well as expectations that preschoolers learn critical thinking skills commensurate with the process skills set forth in the extant literature. These standards encourage preschool teachers to provide more mathematics learning opportunities than counting and shapes and to expand science learning beyond weather and plants. Taken together, these states and national standards emphasize the importance of teaching preschoolers about mathematics and science with the expectation that they enter kindergarten with the skills and knowledge necessary for academic success.”
For decades improving the Science achievement of students in the U.S. has been the main focus for educators, researchers, and policymakers according to the National Research Council. According to the Congressional Research Council, annual federal appropriations for STEM education are typically in the range of $2.8 billion to $3.4billion. It has become a matter of urgency, as we embrace the Technological Revolution in the 21st century. According to the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine, “advancement of the STEM workforce will require more than simply increasing the number and expertise of its future professionals. It will also require a marked increase in the cultural diversity of its talent.” It’s important to make early STEM
education accessible to all socio-economic and racial groups.
According to the World Economic Forum, “Technology is rapidly altering the ways we interact and work, linking communities and workers in increasingly sophisticated ways and opening up new opportunities. Young people, therefore, need to develop digital fluency, and STEM skills from an early age if they are to be equipped to thrive in the modern workplace and also in modern society. Learners need a deeper understanding of how to apply technology and innovation, in order to achieve desired results. Education systems, meanwhile, need to ensure technology curricula are kept up-to-date, while teachers need to have the opportunity to refresh their own skills and knowledge in order to keep pace with external developments. The use of technology should be embedded across the educational experience, to mirror the ways in which technology is now relevant to all sectors and careers.”
Most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science. Ten-year employment projections by the US Department of Labor, for example, anticipate that of the 20 fastest-growing occupations for the period between 2016 and 2026, many will require an increased understanding of math or science. Given the importance of STEM in the growth of future workplaces, it is important to ensure access to related education for all socio-economic groups. Girls and women are particularly underrepresented within high value-added STEM disciplines, and it is crucial to find ways to increase their presence.”
According to the Children’s Learning Research Collaborative at The Ohio State
University, “as technology and innovations play a heightened role in the global
economy, it is essential that Americans demonstrate the necessary mathematics and science skills to remain competitive with other countries. However, the statistics are particularly troubling: when compared with other developed countries, American students consistently score lower on international assessments. In 2009, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked students in the United States 25th out of 33 countries in mathematics literacy and 17th out of 33 in science literacy. Similarly, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that 61% of fourth grade students are not proficient in mathematics and 71% are not proficient in science. To combat these faltering statistics, the US announced the “Educate to Innovate” initiative, which aims to increase the number and quality of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM; The White House, 2010). In order for the United States to compete with international markets in research and innovation, mathematics and science must become a priority in all grades. This mandate includes attending to opportunities to learn mathematics and science in preschool. Yet, despite general consensus on the benefits of high-quality preschool experiences, much of the available literature has focused on promoting children opportunities to learn language and literacy.” Despite existing data on the importance of mathematics and science in preschool classrooms, on average, preschoolers spent about four minutes per day on mathematics and three minutes per day on science whereas approximately 15 minutes were devoted to language and literacy”.
The goal of Science Akedémeia is to change that by creating an environment where children use science, math, and technology to solve problems collaboratively using the engineering design process. This process is the core of our curriculum. It is meant to foster early problem-solving skills and develop critical thinking skills as a fundamental part of STEM education. We understand that children need early STEM immersion to gain STEM fluency!
“The Science and Engineering (S&E) workforce has grown faster over time than the overall workforce. According to Census Bureau data, employment in S&E occupations grew from about 1.1 million in 1960 to about 6.7 million in 2015. This represents an average annual growth rate of 3%, compared to a 2% growth rate in total employment during this period. S&E occupational employment as a share of total employment doubled, from about 2% in 1960 to about 4% in 2015. “
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) occupational projections for the period 2014–2024 suggest that total employment in occupations that National Science Foundation classifies as S&E will increase at a faster rate (11%) than employment in all occupations. These projections are based only on the demand for narrowly defined S&E occupations and do not include the wider range of occupations in which S&E degree holders often use their training. S&E occupations are projected to represent nearly one-third (30%) of current employment in 2014, which is similar to the proportion of job openings in all occupations (31%) Of the BLS-projected net job openings in NSF-identified S&E occupations, the majority (57%) are projected to be in computer and mathematical sciences occupations, the largest subcategory of S&E occupations. This occupational group also has the largest projected growth rate (15%) among NSF-identified S&E groups. Engineering occupations, the second largest subcategory of S&E occupations, are expected to generate about one fourth (27%) of all job openings in S&E occupations during the period 2014-24.
There has been no time in our recent history as the present, that the knowledge and understanding of science has been more relevant, as the world is experiencing the COV-19 Pandemic, research shows that scientific knowledge has a prophylactic effect.
Scientific research shows that “Science knowledge helps individuals convert information into knowledge about the coronavirus. This knowledge then helps individuals avoid unreasonable behavior. Individuals lacking coronavirus knowledge and science knowledge still act reasonably when they have a general trust in medicine. Both trusts in medicine and knowledge are crucial factors for individuals to act reasonably, and avoid unreasonable behavior. Individuals with low knowledge or trust tend to engage in unreasonable behavior. Facilitating science knowledge and reasonable trust in medicine through education and targeted public health messages are likely to be of fundamental importance for bringing crises such as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic under control.” (Sailer, et.al 2020)
According to Scientists at the Frontiers in Public Health “Despite scientific evidence supporting the fact that vaccines are fundamental tools for preventing infectious diseases, a percentage of the population still refuses some or all of them. Vaccine hesitancy has become a widespread issue, and its complexity lies in the great variety of factors that can influence decisions about immunization, which are not just vaccine-related concerns, but also involve personal and societal levels”.“Nowadays, in the “post-truth era,” where every fact seems to be an object of debate, a considerable part of the population has access to the internet and not only uses it to find information, as on health-related issues but to create and share their own content. This facilitates the distribution of true and false information, which can reach a large audience. Messages about vaccines on social media predominantly focus on negative experiences, since they are easier to perceive than the main benefit of vaccination: the absence of disease. The result is increased disbelief of vaccine efficacy accompanied by mistrust in pharmaceutical companies and the subsequent rise in the incidence of vaccine hesitancy around the world”.
Hesitancy to vaccinate has been linked to some vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks in the last two decades. One example was the resurgence of measles in different parts of the US . According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “ from January 1 to April 26, 2019, 704 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states. This is an increase of 78 cases from the previous week. This is the greatest number of cases
reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000”.
The effort put in place to contain these outbreaks required 42,635 to 83,133 personnel
hours of work and resulted in a significant economic burden estimated to be $2.7 to $5.3 million US dollars. With this increasing Effective interventions are, therefore, urgently needed to reduce these high financial losses.
Scientists at the Frontiers in Public Health conducted research to tackle vaccine hesitancy by focusing on a novel target group: children and adolescents. They chose this audience as most literature is addressing the current vaccine hesitancy problem in adults, in whom promoting a change of attitudes toward vaccinations can be challenging. The reason for this is that the rarity of vaccine-preventable diseases in developed countries has created a lack of awareness for them. Besides, parents seem to remain vaccine-hesitant even after being exposed to messages designed to reduce vaccine misperception. Although most people assume that communication about healthcare management primarily flows from parent to child, evidence exists that children can also act as behavior change agents regarding health-related issues, as health education activities brought home from school can also have a positive influence on how parents understand and manage health issues.
For example, a study involving children between the age of 8 and 11, showed that teaching them about second-hand-smoke in school had a positive influence on the in-home smoking behavior of parents. Similarly, Scientists expect that providing information about vaccine safety to children and adolescents in schools might lead to pro-vaccination behaviors in parents.
By targeting children and teenagers, Scientists want to especially influence the vaccine behavior of the next generation, who will eventually become future influencers and parents themselves. As the world is embarking on a vaccine cure to halt the coronavirus pandemic, young people will be witness to the power of science. As childhood and adolescence are fast-paced developmental phases, different communication strategies have to be used for each age group, in order to successfully target them.
Another goal of Science Akadémeia is to teach children about their environment and the impact humans have on the environment. Our goal is for them to understand their responsibility for taking care of the environment and their role as part of a large interdependent ecosystem on earth.
Our science curriculum will include Life sciences, which will involve the study of living and non-living things, Earth sciences, Space and Physical sciences. Our outdoor STEM classroom will provide the laboratory space where children will study the characteristics of plants and animals and what plants and animals need to grow. Children will observe the appearance and behavior of a variety of plants and animals and identify similarities and differences and collect data.
Students will learn to describe properties of materials, color, shape, texture, size, and weight, identify materials that make up familiar objects, describe ways to rethink, reuse, reduce, refuse, and recycle, tell the difference between solids, liquids, and gases and use a variety of objects to describe the properties of a variety of common objects. Children will learn to recognize the changes in the environment due to the four seasons and collect data on daily weather changes and recognize weather patterns.
Our goal at Science Akadémeia is to explore the wonders of the outdoors with children and teach them about the trees, the leaves, the little creatures and the streams, with the hope of garnering respect and appreciation for the environment that will last a lifetime. By planting the seed early of knowledge of the environment our hope is that we are creating the next generation of the stewards of the planet we all call home.