In recent years, no topic has been more pertinent among the United States educational community than STEM. Standing for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the term encompasses the policies and teaching methods that are helping students develop critical thinking skills, improve scientific literacy, learn how to collaborate with others, and more.
Another primary goal of STEM educational curricula is to drive the number of qualified workers in STEM jobs. Careers in these industries are growing at a higher rate than non-STEM jobs but are experiencing a deficit of skilled candidates.
More importantly, this educational model is playing a crucial role in the creation of a future in which workers drive innovation in key sectors. This is particularly important in 21st-century society, wherein both technological and scientific progress has become instrumental to modern life. Young students can thrive in this new culture by honing their skills in STEM fields.
To this end, schools across the United States have begun to implement STEM educational curricula in classrooms at every grade level. However, these topics may have the greatest impact on students in their first few years of schooling. Early STEM learning establishes the strong foundation that elementary school students need to maximize their academic potential for years to come. With this groundwork in place, students are more easily prepared for careers in STEM fields as well as other professional areas.
It is important that educators introduce young students to STEM fields while they are developing their mental capacities and academic habits. In fact, those who receive instruction in these educational topics at an early age have demonstrated better performance in the fields of mathematics and science than those who do not. Early STEM education is, therefore, a key element of elementary learning and skill building for the very youngest of students.
Educators believe in elementary STEM education.
The presence of STEM in elementary school education has garnered support from members of the educational community. In a study on “The Importance of STEM Education in the Elementary Grades,” three researchers from the College of New Jersey gauged the opinions of both new educators as well as those who were about to begin their teaching careers through the administration of an online survey.
This study aimed to identify whether these teachers viewed STEM education as crucial to elementary school students. By assessing the viewpoints of educators, the researchers hoped to gain insight into the future of STEM instruction at the elementary level.
In their survey, the researchers prompted respondents to provide open-ended responses to a number of prompts about the importance of STEM education. Upon completion of the study, the researchers found that 100 percent of respondents voiced their support of elementary STEM education. Over 30 percent of participants agreed that this educational model was key to establishing a “foundation for later academics.”
Facilitating “connections to everyday life” and “nurturing positive STEM attitudes” were two other factors that educators ranked similarly in terms of importance, at 26 and 25 percent, respectively. Other reasons educators identified STEM as important included STEM’s general promotion of learning and its integration of different types of content. Within these larger categories of answers, respondents identified 130 different arguments that supported STEM and its impact on elementary education.
STEM learning has had a number of benefits for young students.
Though the main purpose of STEM education is to support employment in these fields, it has also become known for the positive impact that it can have on individual elementary school students. For example, those who engage with elementary STEM curricula build their problem-solving capabilities. As they participate in STEM learning activities, these young students learn to read and analyze problems before they identify the best solution.
Creativity is another critical skill that elementary students gain from STEM education. By participating in STEM activities, these young learners learn to think in ways that will help them overcome problems and grow into future innovators. STEM education fosters this progress by encouraging students to relate their education to real-world problems in all four areas of educational content.
Perhaps the most important benefit of elementary STEM education is that it facilitates a lifetime love of learning among the youngest of students. For children of this age, understanding that they can enjoy the learning process is crucial. These students are full of curiosity, a trait that draws them to new subjects and topics. However, the typical educational experience may detract from this excitement and causes them to ultimately dislike learning.
STEM lays the groundwork for an adoration of learning in several ways. These curricula are designed to be engaging by teaching critical topics in a way that mimics their real-world applications. With STEM concepts interspersed throughout these lessons, students become motivated to learn and succeed. In addition, students have the opportunity to work alongside others on their STEM lessons.
The adaptability of these topics enables teachers to place students of different learning levels in the same group, thereby encouraging communication among peers. Most importantly, STEM learning is student-centered, encouraging young learners to think in critical and innovative ways. It also enables teachers to create a reassuring learning environment in which students can try activities multiple times instead of automatically delivering failing grades after a single attempt.