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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL buildings. Similarly, when children have diffi- culty creating a bridge to span two block struc- tures, the teacher should let them know that engineers also must solve problems when they design bridges and roads. A children’s book about bridges may provide ideas about how engineers have solved problems similar to their own. As an- other example, a child tries to create a building in the sand table, but it keeps falling down. This is an opportunity to talk about the different charac- teristics of building materials. Allowing the child to create the same building with clay may yield a more effective result. The properties and charac- teristics of building materials is something that engineers and architects must also consider when designing and building structures. Engineering is connected to many of the concepts children ex- plore in the early childhood classroom. For this reason, background information for teachers is included in many of the activities in this book. Teachers can use this information to help children connect their school activities to engineering pro- fessions in the adult world. This is the age of technology, when each year brings more amazing inventions—smartphones, smaller and more powerful computers, enhanced interactive games, global positioning systems, and so on. Some elementary school classrooms now have Smart Boards that allow teachers and students to instantly access information from around the world. Nevertheless, while there are some computer applications that are effective learning tools for young children, and while teacher-guided use of the Internet can help chil- dren answer questions they may have, it is impor- tant to remember that technology did not begin in the digital age. People have been inventing and using tools for millennia, and we continue to use these simple devices in our every­day life. For example, tools that are used in the kitchen, such as apple slicers and peelers, hand-held juic- ers, and mortars and pestles, are applications of simple machines and technology that children can understand and therefore apply. In fact, experi- mentation with simple machines, such as pulleys, inclines, and wedges, can greatly expand chil- 4 c ha p te r 1 dren’s understanding of physics. For this reason, tools that can be used throughout the classroom are a focus of curriculum applications of technol- ogy in this book. Recently, some educators have suggested that the acronym STEM be changed to STEAM, with the letter A designating art. Science and mathe- matics are indeed deeply embedded in both art and music. The incorporation of science and mathematics concepts into art and music activ- ities is emphasized throughout this book. With that in mind, it seems unnecessary to alter the spelling of STEM, which is rapidly becoming familiar to educators. Effective Teaching Practices Four teaching practices are critical to early learn- ing in science and mathematics: 1. Intentional teaching 2. Teaching for understanding 3. Encouraging inquiry 4. Providing real-world contexts Intentional teaching within the STEM dis- ciplines means that teachers thoughtfully plan learning experiences with science and math goals in mind. They utilize technology as a learn- ing tool and make connections to engineering when appropriate. Learning goals should focus on understanding so that children can apply their knowledge in science and mathematics to new situations. Both mathematics and science are creative disciplines in which individuals ask questions, establish relationships, and commu- nicate ideas. For this reason, a focus on inquiry should be at the heart of education in both areas. Young children learn best when they can interact with concrete materials and make connections to experiences from their own lives. Therefore, learning in both science and mathematics should focus on materials, situations, and experiences that are important, interesting, and meaningful to young children. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL