The Power of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)

The Power of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)

By Jeanne Labana, WECA Training Coordinator and Master Trainer

IMG_1716Gina 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!

WECA Staff Spotlight: Alice Gomez-Palacio

WECA Staff Spotlight: Alice Gomez-Palacio

Alice Gomez-Palacio, has been working as a WECA Food Program Area Coordinator for almost 15 years.  Alice brings a unique commitment to supporting family child care providers. Apart from her weekly job responsibilities, Alice goes that extra mile to personally meet with Spanish-speaking providers to train them on the Food Program’s online claiming system.

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Alice Gomez-Palacio (L) teaching the Food Program’s online claiming system.

“I felt there was a need for the one-on-one training,” Alice says. “I am a visual learner, and noticed that some providers were embarrassed to ask for help. The majority of the providers I serve are Hispanic, and due to the language barrier, there is a need for visual assistance for the on-line program,” she adds

We applaud Alice for her solid work and dedication to the providers she serves. She eliminates the fear providers feel about learning new technology. “Providers have told me that they’re scared to go on-line because they will make mistakes,” Alice shared. “But as soon as they have done the training, they are amazed how simple it was. They tell me ‘Gosh Alice, I should have done this a long time ago!’”

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Learn more about CACFP.Net and WECA’s Food Program

Alice also provides continuous assistance whenever needed. “I assure them that I will be there to assist them with any questions. Providers are pleased when they know they are saving money by claiming online,” she adds.

All of us at the Food Program are pleased to have Alice leading the way to excellent service.

Highly educated… undercompensated

It has been my privilege to serve Wisconsin Early Childhood Association for the past 14 years. Our organization works to promote the critical importance of the child care profession and strengthen investments in the teachers who provide vital care and education to children from over 72% of Wisconsin’s families each day.

Child care professionals struggle against common misperceptions of their work.  Over time, I have heard variations on the following theme: “Child care providers are really just babysitters, aren’t they? Therefore, their compensation seems right in line, yes?”

Well, no.

In early July Wisconsin Early Childhood Association released a comprehensive study of early childhood teachers in Wisconsin. (Our last study was in 2010). The findings will make for some very different conversations.

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Take for example the education level of child care teachers. More than half – 52% – have an Associate degree or higher. This is more than the Wisconsin workforce in general in which 42% hold an Associate degree or higher.2  The education level of child care teachers has a considerable effect on the quality of teaching and on outcomes for our youngest children. Higher education at even greater levels for the early childhood profession is essential.
College graduateYet, there’s an unexplained pay gap. Wisconsinites with an Associate degree who work in fields other than early care and education can expect to earn $18/hour on average. However, degree-holders in early care and education can expect pay which averages $10/hour.  Annualized, child care teachers earn $17,000 less than other Wisconsinites with an Associates degree. The gap grows wider when comparing those in the field who hold a Bachelor’s degree  – $12/hour – versus those who hold that degree and work in another field – $22.80/hour. Annually, the child care teacher with the Bachelor’s degree earns fully $22,500 LESS.

Often I hear, “Well child care teachers don’t go into the field for money. They do the work because they love children.”  It’s a perception not unique to Wisconsin. A recent article in the New York Times described a conversation between a child care provider in New Mexico and a legislator she visited at the state Capitol to lobby for education funding:

“She remembered meeting with a senator who told her, ‘You don’t get into this for the money; you’re paid in love.’ ‘Really?’ she replied. ‘When my landlord comes, can I just give him a hug?’

  1. COWS, State of Working Wisconsin 2014 http://www.cows.org

Ruth Schmidt is Executive Director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association and a registered lobbyist.

WI Council on Children and Families Hosts Community Forums

The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families will host four WisKids Count Community Conversations, in collaboration with other organizations throughout the state. The goal of the forums is to increase awareness of the effects the recession has had on the well-being of children and to initiate conversation on what can be done to support children.

Local community leaders will discuss the challenges faced by families within their communities during the recession. Additional information from the recently released Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report on “America’s Children, America’s Challenge: Promoting Opportunity for the Next Generation” as well as data from the State and local levels will be presented.

La Crosse WisKids Count Community Conversation
Monday, Sept. 12, 11:15 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
UW- La Crosse – Valhalla Room Cartwright Center, 1741 State Street, La Crosse

Appleton WisKids Count Community Conversation
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.  
Zion Lutheran Church, 912 North Oneida Street, Appleton

Wausau WisKids Count Community Conversation
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 7:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m.
North Central Technical College, Wausau

No registration required for the La Crosse, Appleton or Wausau Conversations
Questions can be directed to Martha Cranley, WCCF Kids Count Coordinator, at 608-284-0580 x 321 or at mcranley@wccf.org

Racine WisKids Count Community Conversation
Thursday, Sept. 22, 5:45 p.m.-7:45 p.m.
The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, 33 East Four Mile Road, Racine

To attend the Racine Conversation, please RSVP to lpiche@johnsonfdn.org at The Johnson Foundation.

For more information about the WisKids Count project visit the WCCF website.