Engaging Parents in Early Childhood STEM Education

The global economy is increasingly embracing a structure that relies heavily upon science, technology, engineering, and math.  As early childhood educators, it is essential to utilize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to help foster further development in the world’s most innovative fields of study. A study done by The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop completed in the Winter of 2017 titled “STEM starts early” measured what helps children learns STEM, and found that a key factor in creating quality early childhood STEM education is engaging parents in the learning process.

Teachers can convey the importance of STEM education in many ways, including but not limited to: by having discussions with parents about the STEM curriculum in their classroom, sending home flyers pertaining to what research says about STEM education, ways in which parents can help, and by inviting parents to participate in STEM learning taking place in the classroom.  If you are looking for research and resources on the topic of STEM education early learning, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has compiled a comprehensive list, I suggest you explore it.

The comprehensive “STEM starts early” report conveys that although early childhood educators are important to children developing STEM knowledge and skills, parents are “their first and most important STEM guides” (p. 7). Due to this fact, it is essential that parents have the confidence and ability to be effective STEM guides.  A base knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math is necessary.  early childhood educators can model effective STEM teaching to parents, and should share resources they utilize to incorporate STEM in to the classroom. Preschools and childcare centers can provide resources for parents STEMwho lack basic knowledge in STEM.

If STEM education is valued at home and in the child’s school or child care center, then positive effects are likely to follow. The report mentions that one main reason parents don’t incorporate STEM learning into the home, is that they are under the impression it is for younger individuals. This is a stigma that must be reversed, but it won’t be easy, and requires early childcare educators to do the hard work of conveying consistently that STEM learning is for children of all ages, and they can never start to early!

Finally, lets discuss what the report conveys pertaining to how children learn STEM best, which is by immersing children in an environment rich in STEM learning, just as individuals learning foreign languages immerse themselves in that language (p. 56).  STEM learning outcomes improve with immersion. Parents are essential to this immersion, because they can design a home environment in which children can immerse themselves in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

As displayed, the “STEM starts early” report provides bountiful information pertaining to integrating parents into early childhood STEM learning. Integrating parents is essential to bettering STEM learning outcomes. 

How have you utilized STEM in your classroom?

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Engaging Parents in Early Childhood STEM Education

  1. Hi Blake,
    Good to see you are interested in bringing theory and research to practice.
    How does play contribute to the development of scientific thinking? What play materials and experiences can parents provide to encourage curiosity about the natural world?
    Professor Wambach

    Like

    • Professor Wambach,

      Thank you for checking out my new blog. I think it was your Psychology course I took my junior year that spurred my interest in educational psychology and learning processes. I ended up doing my M.Ed in Human Resource Development, and really enjoyed learning about how adults learn.

      I think that intentional play structured around science with integrated technology is a great way for children under 5 to learn STEM. The less forced, the better, and therefore the child will be less likely to see STEM activities as a chore.

      As far as resources go, the NEA provides a nice list: http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/stem-resources.html. The list provides activities for children, and also additional information on STEM for parents and educators.

      I think that the best way to inspire a child’s interest in the natural world is to help them explore it. Catch frogs, swim in a lake, go to the aquarium to see different aquatic species, or go on a voyage into a local forest (on a trail of course); all of these things will open a child up to experiences they will find fun, and may force them to think about the natural world more broadly.

      Hope all is well!

      Blake

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s