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STEAM Starts Early

STEAM Starts Early!

How do we encourage educators, many of whom are uncomfortable with math and science, to engage in STEAM activities with their students? What’s the difference between STEAM and STEM? These are just some of the questions answered last week when NHSA participated in a Google Hangout panel hosted by the U.S. Department of Education that highlighted state, regional and national system-wide early STEM efforts across the country.

NHSA has been involved in the Department of Education’s STEM Starts Early efforts since April, when we were invited to take part in the Early STEM Summit to highlight our partnership with Lakeshore Learning, Recycle Your Way to STEAM. The partnership encourages Head Start programs to engage in STEAM activities by using recycled materials to build together. Through the partnership, classrooms throughout the United States have been building busses, trains, rockets, and robots all in the spirit of inquiry-based learning.

The panel included Janet Bock-Hager and Kelcie Blankenship of West Virginia’s Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning, Angus Maris of Thrive Washington, Chris Pond of Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, Dr. Kareen Borders of West Sound STEM, and Angi Stone-MacDonald of University of Massachusetts Boston. All panelists had unique and varied perspectives for how they promoted STEAM and STEM education within their own communities.

Inquiry-Based Learning and Partnerships

One major theme of the panel was the importance of inquiry-based learning. Janet and Kelcie of West Virginia spoke about their professional development systems that help teachers ask students the right questions and foster children’s natural curiosity. An example of this can be seen in our Recycle Your Way to STEAM initiative, one major component of which is creating a plan and developing hypotheses to help students seek understanding of what will happen. Angi from the University of Massachusetts spoke about taking simple obstacles in your classroom - for example, a broken tricycle - and working with students to solve these problems together.

Another major theme was creating partnerships. Thrive Washington’s team works to create regional networks with other early childhood organizations to build capacity for STEAM education in the state of Washington. The University of Massachusetts works with local classrooms and museums to help provide more resources - maker spaces, for instance - for children to engage in STEAM activities. For our part, NHSA has partnered with Lakeshore in order to successfully implement our own joint initiative!


Moving Forward

As we seek to prepare our students for the 21st century, STEAM and STEM education will remain a crucial aspect for Head Start programs to implement effectively. NHSA will continue to remain involved in discussions around early STEM education in order to support the Head Start field in delivering high quality programming. To hear the whole conversation, please visit the Department of Education STEM Office’s google page.