STEAM for 5-year-olds? Really?
SPU alumna and Washington state Teacher of the Year Camille Jones ’08 is one of many voices advocating for integrated exposure to STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics for early elementary students.
“I often hear people say we need to get kids started on STEAM early and then they say, ‘In fifth grade.’ But by fifth grade, they already know what they think about themselves and what subjects they’re good at and bad at,” Jones says. “No, kindergartners can do this.”
STEAM teaches students to think critically and have an engineering or design approach toward real-world problems while building on their mathematics and science base. Though some see art and science at odds, they have long existed and developed collaboratively. Nobel laureates in the sciences are 17 times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, 12 times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.
Young children are eager to explore and invent. Their natural curiosity leads them toward inquiry: “How can I make my block building really tall — but not fall over?” “Why does that log float on top of the lake?” “What happens if I mix these colors together?” Primary-grade classrooms are rich with opportunities to investigate and explore. Students love hands-on, collaborative work, whether it’s designing clothing, constructing a marble run, or baking cookies.
STEAM-oriented teachers can highlight the underlying scientific process skills: observing and questioning, investigating, analyzing, and reporting and reflecting on the “big idea.” These skills enable children to formulate thoughts into questions, solve problems, and make the connection between scientific (“Let’s find out”) and innovative (“What if?”) thinking.
Find STEAM resources for young children on Jones’ school website.