By Jeanne Labana, WECA Training Coordinator and Master Trainer
Gina Flynn’s classroom at St Robert’s school is alive with activity! Groups of children have gathered plastic eggs, play dough, measuring tools and Unifix cubes. One group is rolling the eggs, discussing the way they roll with respect to their shape. Another group is creating patterns and counting. Yet another group is stacking the eggs, trying to get height, unsuccessfully. The stacking group spies the play dough and tape and think they might be good binding agents. They find they need too much play dough to stack very high. Switching to tape is more difficult and needs more hands but the eggs are now higher. Soon the other groups have also started stacking, formulating plans for how to structure the stack for the best results. Amid the thoughtful sharing of ideas, attempts and giggles the groups begin to compare the height and width of their projects with the measuring tools. Meaningful learning is happening, thanks to STEAM.
The STEAM approach captures a child’s natural curiosity and fosters higher-level thinking through planning, reasoning, hypothesizing, predicting, theorizing, etc. For young children this is a vital stage of development. Research reveals that young children learn most successfully when they are the center of a learning experience that includes physical, linguistic, social-emotional, and knowledge-rich components. When children are active creators of their learning with adults as their guides or facilitators they become excited and engaged.
In teaching, Gina Flynn prioritizes STEAM. In the egg project alone, children are developing skills with counting, adding, subtracting, 3-D design, and physical manipulation of materials. They are also growing their capacities to problem-solve, imagine, listen, work together with others, and persist when faced with difficulty. They are growing their social-emotional skills.
This year, WECA’s Annual Conference features a learning track on STEAM. Save Friday, November 10 and Saturday November 11 – when Gina Flynn and other experts will be sharing theory and practice on STEAM. There will be hands-on examples of activities for you to use – whether you teach infants, toddlers, preschoolers, or kindergartners. Come! Let’s learn together! See you at the conference!