While there is no singular solution to providing equitable, high-quality learning experiences for our youngest learners, we do know that by supporting proactive policies, professional development, and selecting research-based STEM curricula, we can better prepare the next generation of problem solvers. But with preschool program enrollment declines ranging from 15% to 41% during the 2020-2021 pandemic school year according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), how can we continue to bridge the gaps caused from these inequitable learning opportunities?
Preparing young learners to engage in STEM skills and encouraging creativity and problem solving can start younger than you’d think. While pre-readers may not yet be ready to take on full fledged engineering curricula, you can prepare young students for building engineering skills in the future by:Introducing Key Concepts Early - Learning the basics of engineering can be overwhelming for young learners. Introducing key concepts and vocabulary before learners are immersed in a lesson helps them stay focused. Core ideas can be introduced as early as preschool using familiar language and situations.
Modeling Sequential Thinking - Teach your kids the process of breaking down big problems into smaller, simpler ones. Look for patterns and repetition in the world around you. Practice thinking through sequential questions with your learner, such as, “After bathtime, what steps do we take to get dressed?” Quick and simple interactions like this prepare them for the type of thinking they’ll be doing in later years.Practicing Simple Problem-Solving - Get your learner thinking like an engineer by thinking outside the box and finding solutions for the problems in their day to day life. Can you create a paper towel tube chute to get dirty socks to the laundry? What’s the safest way to reach the sink? Get hands-on with learners of any age to have them thinking like engineers in no time.
Whether introducing our youngest learners to engineering in-school with EiE’s Wee Engineer curriculum, or at home with the family using the free Engineering at Home activities, practicing social, emotional, fine motor, cognitive, and language skills prepares them for a strong start in school.
We’d love to hear from you about the questions and curiosities you have about bringing these topics to your classroom and home. If there are ways you’ve succeeded or struggled to engage your early learners with engineering concepts, let us know in the comments below!