STEM In Your Classroom: Storytime
STEM in Your Classroom: Storytime
Contributed by Amanda Lee
Did you know STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills are essential in everyday life and is an indicator of academic success? The Early Childhood STEM Working Group of San Diego STEM Ecosystem understands that STEM starts early! But parents and educators still need additional support to offer and enhance these experiences. Furthermore, they need a boost in confidence that they are, indeed, very capable of providing quality interactions with their children without having to be experts themselves. And so, a budding partnership between San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and the San Diego STEM Ecosystem emerged to fulfill a dire need for STEM professional development workshops for preschool teachers across the district.
In March, these preschool teachers gathered to learn how to enhance STEM in their classroom. Early childhood educators have a critical role in offering their students these early experiences to build upon, but most of the participants were implementing STEM in the classroom only once per month and had a neutral attitude about their STEM competencies. Amanda Lee, Early Childhood STEM Working Group Chair for San Diego STEM Ecosystem, and Sophie Wasserman, Director of Education at San Diego Air and Space Museum, along with the assistance of Andia Pebdani from the Fleet Science Center, led a workshop to show these teachers they were actually implementing STEM more regularly than they thought and offered additional resources for these teachers to step up their STEM game.
As leaders in the informal education field implementing STEM regularly to early learners, the facilitators were experts on hands-on learning and integrating multiple disciplines in a short amount of time. The facilitators had to tread lightly, though, as most of these educators had rarely, if ever, participated in professional learning for STEM, a scenario that is all too common amongst educators across the country. The message of the training was, “Look, you’re already doing it! So don’t be afraid.” Teachers were reminded of ways they were already achieving elements of STEM and walked away with additional tools to embed STEM into their daily routines (including storytime!)—they engaged with “The Three Little Pigs” and participating in an engineer design challenge; incorporated questioning strategies using a customized Webb’s Depth of Knowledge chart; and they collaborated in creating a new lesson they could implement with their students right away.
By getting comfortable with recognizing and experiencing the STEM process with their students, and being able to understand and thoughtfully plan meaningful questions to better support the children’s learning experiences, the teachers were able to leave the training feeling more confident and inspired to embed STEM in their lessons more regularly each week from lining up to center rotations to storytime.
While there are many initiatives across the nation to support STEM in early childhood, the San Diego STEM Ecosystem is taking the lead locally to connect and support the county in advocating and offering rich STEM opportunities through STEM-supportive organizations and individuals. By empowering educators to offer valuable STEM opportunities to their students and families, the Early Childhood STEM Working Group aims to make a greater impact in encouraging young children to explore STEM skills and careers at their most critical point of development.
Amanda Lee is the Early Childhood STEM Working Group Chair for the San Diego STEM Ecosystem. She holds a Masters of Arts in Education and is an experienced Director of Education. She is passionate about making STREAM experiences accessible and exciting for ages 0 to grey.