Planting the Seeds for STEM in PreK Classrooms

As a part of BPScon opening the Burlington 2014-2015 academic year, Wendy Pavlicek and I invited the PreK classroom teachers and assistants at the Burlington Early Childhood Education Center to join us for an afternoon workshop training and encouraging them to bring more STEM into their classrooms.

Our Seeds to STEM presentation used research and resources offered through the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care to help our teachers better understand the best practices educators use to foster learning and love for the STEM fields.

From the Boston Childrens Museum's "STEM Family Activities Workbook."

From the Boston Childrens Museum’s “STEM Family Activities Workbook.”

Emphasized first and foremost was the need for our PreK teachers to be constantly asking questions that lead to students thinking like scientists and engineers alongside their daily activities. The type of questions encouraged include attention focusing, counting, comparison, action, and problem-solving questions. To practice we asked teachers to think of questions that fell into these categories that they might ask while exploring the Science Center on a rainy day (as they often do during normally scheduled playground time!)

Investigating how colors blend with the help of eyedroppers while contemplating age appropriate questions for PreK scientists!

Investigating how colors blend with the help of eyedroppers while contemplating age appropriate questions for PreK scientists!

From there we took the next step by considering questions to ask during age appropriate hands-on investigations with oobleck, and cartons of plastic “Eggs Full of Sound” performed in groups for those unfamiliar with the activities. Along the way we discussed the pros and cons of different oobleck recipes and how teachers have scaffolded the Eggs Full of Sound activity to best reach their particular students.

During the technology portion of the workshop it was emphasized that technology was ‘more than just electronics.” To illustrate this Wendy performed a wonderful observation activity many of our K-5 teachers use to start their year involving hand lens magnifiers. Later, eyedroppers and colored water were used to perform an investigation around mixing colors associated with the children’s book Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh.

Time was short, leaving us unable to perform our magnets and bridge building activity, but we did not let the PreK teachers leave without pocket-size “kinds of questions” refreshers to keep in their classroom or pocketbooks where they might use it as a handy reference. Many left assuring us they would be calling soon to use the activities demonstrated and to include us more in their classroom activities which is exactly what Wendy and I intended. We are looking forward to working with our PreK teachers more in the future!

For more resources on PreK teaching of the STEM disciplines visit this resource page I created for this and other PreK workshops I’ve done in the past for the North Suburban Family Network of Massachusetts.

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About MrMusselman

K-5 Science Specialist for the Burlington Public Schools of Burlington, MA.
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