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Adding S.T.E.M through books & play in a natural way

There has been a growing interest in all things S.T.E.M. for the children (and me).

Books have been a starting point or ‘hook’ for the children to ask questions and explore problem solving. I have found that books also help with recall as they are more memorable than fact or content sharing on there own.

With this interest I took a look at the e-patterns I had created and ways to be intentional with S.T.E.M. I wasn't looking to add one off 'WOW' activities to the day but natural ways to weave in S.T.E.M.

I knew I had been exposing children to a diverse range of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical concepts in a natural and hands-on way but realised that I could be more intentional in this.

This intentionality led to the S.T.E.M bundle of e-patterns and a booklet with the terms and concepts all in one place to support (teacher), extend and guide (children).

The first thing I wanted to do was to familiarise myself with what S.T.E.M is from an early childhood perspective.

SCIENCE- Observing, experimenting and being curious.

TECHNOLOGY- Being inventive, innovative and working with tools and computers.

ENGINEERING- Solving problems and fixing things.

MATHEMATICS- Exploring numbers, patterns, shapes and solving problems.

I then looked at the different branches, categories and fields for each. With these fresh in my mind and my learning notes / anecdotes in hand I selected 7 e-patterns that had most if not all S.T.E.M links in them.

They are:

Stack the cats

Caps for sale

The little blue truck

My cat likes to hide in boxes and

Shape monster.

Two of them are FREE- the 3 little pigs and Jack and the beanstalk

I was surprised how many of them touched on all S.T.E.M areas and one even had the A for art in S.T.E.A.M which is a recent addition to the acronym.

From my learning notes I knew what had been of interest when I first used the resources but I wanted to use them again and see if there were new interests and intentionally add ones I had reflected on and prepared for.

I started with the newest resource Stack the cats which also happened to be the one that included the A or art in S.T.E.A.M. Here is what I discovered and a taster of what is in the booklet (which you can buy on its own).

In the book the cats are used for counting, stacking and balancing and here is how you can support this. You will find content knowledge in the blue and the productive questions are in the yellow, productive questions are not yes or no questions or low- level, factual recall questions.

The children LOVED balancing the cats and there was a lot of concentration when they were doing this, I was careful not to interrupt this to weave in content knowledge or ask a question. Sometimes I simply observed them noticing and recognising the learning that was happening and let my response be to enjoy what was happening before my eyes.

Balancing requires Science (observing and experimenting), Technology (identifying issues) and Engineering (solving problems and building things).

Looking at the Science involved in stacking stones it is about physics, forces and gravity.

Less so with the wheat or bean bags as the materials did not need to balance quiet the same.

From a Technology perspective it is all about identifying possible issues with the stones you will stack and if tools are needed to help. As the stones I used were almost uniformed (made of resin) this was not an issue but if you were to use river stones this may be a different story

Can you see where you/ I should place the next cat/stone? This question enabled problem solving and the answers were never a simple 'here' and children looked closely at how the cats were stacked from different angles, with some verbalising this act and others doing it in silence.

Balance and stacking from an Engineering perspective requires a good foundation and design. Using the wheat bag cats on parts of the body would offer opportunities to explore balance, gravity and problem solving.

If you support the center of gravity, the object will balance. If an object is not supported then the object will topple over. Gravity is an invisible force that pulls objects toward each other.

What surprised you when you stacked the cats?

Stacking stones is where you could put the A or Art in the S.T.E.M as stone stacking is an art form (S.T.E.A.M).

Last but not least Mathematically unlike most other counting books this one counts backwards from 10 to one as well as from 1 to 10, this is called reverse counting.

Reverse counting shows children that you can play with numbers which will help with future learning for subtraction and manipulating them in solving problems in Mathematics.

The stones are perfect to add Maths and counting to a story basket. You could add numbers to disks, lids or blocks too.

A note here about stacking stones. It has been an ancient and indigenous form of marking paths and significant spaces in the past. BUT in recent times there have been warnings from scientists and conservationists that such stacks cause ecological damage and risk the survival of many endemic plant and animal species. Even though our stacking was with stones and then extended to wheat bags and buttons I did touch on its pasts and present uses with caution and care.

We also stacked cut out material cats, wheat bag cats (from pattern and then button cats). These variations meant we were able to use different muscles, hand eye coordination and problem solving skills. All of which supported S.T.E.M.

With intentionality my learning notes had richer language, curiosity and exploration. Which in turn meant there was more depth in the learning stories and teaching stories I wrote (for teacher registration).

In the S.T.E.M e-pattern bundle you will get support for each e-pattern or booklet and be able to add S.T.E.M in an intentional and natural way to your storytelling, group times and story baskets.

If you are ready to add S.T.E.M to your practice then this bundle will be for you!

Until next time


P.S. if you have one of the 7 e-patterns including the FREE ones you can buy the e-booklet on its own.

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