Friday, July 25, 2014

S.T.E.M.: Focus on the Arts

In recent years there has been a great amount of focus placed on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (S.T.E.M.).  In an effort to keep pace with a global economy, educators from preschools through higher education have increased learning opportunities that place emphasis on S.T.E.M. 

Map making in DCM's Creativity Studio
Also at the forefront of educational circles is S.T.E.A.M., or adding the arts to the emphasis that is currently placed on science and mathematical literacy. Research shows that the arts support crucial developmental skills in creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication (National Endowment for the Arts Longitudinal Study results, 2012). The arts can also be a powerful way to approach math and science learning for children who don’t show great interest in S.T.E.M. concepts otherwise.

In the early years children can be encouraged to use dance to learn about spatial relationships and geometry. Dance is movement and a constant creation of shape not only in circles and curves, but also in straight and pointed lines in relation to bodies as they move through a space.

Science concepts, such as light and shadow, can be added to math learning and dance.  Children can be encouraged to watch how movements change the shapes and lines of their bodies as the sun shines behind them.  

To the tune of Five Fat Sausages and other number-oriented songs; music, movement and counting have gone hand-in-hand for many years. In addition, chanting patterns like tap, clap, snap or even sorting objects as songs are sung can reinforce mathematical concepts for young children. 

S.T.E.A.M. education indicates that children can be offered concepts in math and science while developing additional complimentary skills enhanced through the arts. As we begin to see these connections, we can open our eyes to S.T.E.A.M.—its presence and value in how we engage learners.  

This blog post is also published in Positively Naperville, a printed guide of community events, volunteer opportunities and local lore. The publication is distributed to 35,000 homeowners by the first of every month.

Friday, July 18, 2014

S.T.E.M.: Focus on Math

Math Connections Neighborhood
Math is all around us.  There are countless opportunities during the day for children to hear new math words and deepen their understanding of math concepts. The more we talk about math and share our enjoyment of the experience with children, the better chance they have to build a positive attitude toward math learning and learning in general. 

Math-talk words are all around us. As you explain daily routines and experiences, you are discussing patterns. Numbers and operations are expressed when keeping score in a game using words like ahead and behind. Comparison words like big and small are beginning measurement talk. Take your pick, songs such as This Old Man or Five Little Pumpkins address numbers and counting.  Spatial relationships are introduced when you verbalize getting from one place to another.

Math-Talk Moments
  • Identify opportunities to use math-talk during your daily routines and experiences.
  • Make a list of math-talk words and phrases. Make a mental note of those words and use a few of the words frequently for a week. As time goes on, new math-talk words can be added. You may even post some on the wall and rotate.
  • Share your strategy with others. Others may have great ideas about math talk too!

Information contained in this blog is borrowed from Spotlight on Young Children: Exploring Math (2012) published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  More, All Gone, Empty, Full: Math Talk with Infants and Toddlers—Every Day, in Every Way by Jan Greenberg.

Greenberg is a senior writer/training specialist with the Early Head Start National Resource Center, in Washington, DC.  Her past work includes product development, training and technical assistance, and teaching infants, toddlers and preschool children in regular and special education programs. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

S.T.E.M.: Focus on Engineering

At DuPage Children's Museum, our mission speaks to the integration of art, mathematics, and science. For the young learners that come through our doors, this means that we are consistently thinking about and developing ideas that focus on introducing these concepts all at the same time! As a matter of fact, you may know that engineering concepts pull specifically from both math and science content—engineering ideas, art processes, and the building of math and science skill sets are all things we do.

Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve
Encouraging children to ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve are steps in a design process that can be used to introduce children to engineering concepts.  Going through all of the steps and even circling back to the beginning can be beneficial to the learning process. When a child ASKs a question or wants to solve a problem, the child can then be encouraged to IMAGINE how that problem might be solved. In turn, a PLAN can be made to CREATE something that will help to answer the initial question.  The product can then be tested, allowing time for reflection on the process.  Finally, the child can begin to think about how the product might be IMPROVEd! These steps are part of a process that encourages children to think with an engineering mindset. This process is just as important as any product that may be developed!

Engineering at DCM
One of the ways we see engineering concepts develop at DuPage Children's Museum is in the Make It Move Neighborhood. The Ramps and Rollers exhibit offers a carpeted platform and a set of handcrafted maple unit blocks with holes, wooden rollways, tunnels, and bridges. Children can use these pieces to engineer simple and elaborate structures. Balls of various weights traverse the structures, offering physics exploration too! 

During your next visit spend some time developing engineering skills in Make It Move! You might even visit the Moser Construction House—how do you think engineering skill sets might come alive using wood pieces, nails, screws, and a vice grip?   

Friday, July 4, 2014

S.T.E.M.: Focus on Technology

 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Technological tools including phones, screens, tablets, computers, and much more have become great resources for many of us in recent years. Technology connects us to people and learning concepts in a whole new exciting and engaging way. From screen time to interaction with handheld devices, professionals who are interested in the health of our children have weighed in on technology including its benefits and its cautions. This blog on technology leads you to some of the information professionals have shared, and allows you to make informed decisions for the children in your life. 

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
AAP offers a wealth of information on screen-time and media use. Some of the most important information suggests a healthy “media-diet” that is monitored by parents and avoidance of television and media use for infants and children under the age of two. Take a look at the AAP advocacy and policy health initiatives on media and children link provided for media use tips and additional resources.

NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center Position Statement
The National Association for the Education of Young Children informs parents and caregivers of young children with 12 key messages on the use of technology for children from birth to age 8. The full position statement is also available for review on the NAEYC website.

5-4-3-2-1 GO!
Organizations such as the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago’s Children and FORWARD, Fighting Obesity Reaching healthy Weight Among Residents of DuPage, offer messaging encouraging children to be active and engage in healthy lifestyle practices. This message includes limiting screen time. 

For more lessons that encourage 5-4-3-2-1 GO! try the link included here.