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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL information is through reading about it or being told. Constructivist educators have long voiced concern that science and mathematics are fre- quently taught as if children can understand the underlying concepts by simply reading or being told the information. Reading about sim- ple machines rather than actually experiment- ing with them is an example from science. In mathematics, telling children specifically how to solve a problem exemplifies this concern. Social knowledge related to science and mathematics is largely confined to scientific or mathematical vocabulary. While it is important for children to learn this vocabulary, it should be introduced within the context of direct interactions with sci- entific and mathematical situations. In this way, social knowledge supports conceptual develop- ment rather than leading to only a surface level of understanding. Designing A STEM Curriculum An integrated STEM curriculum often revolves around scientific inquiry. This encourages chil- dren to ask questions, conduct explorations, and form inferences in much the same manner as scientists. Teachers support scientific inquiry by providing interesting curricular materials that challenge children to explore and learn while building on their previous knowledge and un- derstanding. For example, a class that discovered and collected fossils on a recent field trip might be very interested in comparing them to seashells and sea creatures of today. The questions that teachers pose and the conversations they have with children as they interact with materials can expand children’s use of scientific inquiry, in- crease their thinking skills, and provoke deeper investigations. The following are some of the components of scientific inquiry: predicting: forming an idea or expecta- tion based on previous experiences that guides scientific investigation observing: carefully examining the characteristics of an object, either in its natural environment or in an experi- mental setting •• experimenting: creating a situation to investigate a prediction or manipulate an object to gain knowledge •• comparing: forming relationships through observation or experimenta- tion with objects •• measuring: formulating or using a method to compare or quantify par- ticular attributes of objects, such as length, weight, distance, and speed •• inferring: forming an assumption based on repeated observations or experimentation •• communicating: sharing knowledge gained through inquiry by talking, writ- ing, drawing, or reenacting a situation Children can engage in scientific inquiry through exploring materials in STEM learning centers and investigating materials throughout the curricu- lum, including the outdoors. In addition, STEM learning can be a major component of class proj- ects and a focus of field trips. Simple adjustments to regular classroom activities can also lead to STEM learning outcomes. Creating STEM Learning Centers Science learning centers are a component of many preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Effective teachers redesign and change these centers regularly to build on the interests of the children, to coordinate with other aspects of the curriculum, or to introduce materials related to a particular content standard. Science centers can be strengthened by turning them into STEM learning centers. The introduction of mathemat- ics, such as the inclusion of measurement tools or graphs for data analysis, adds to the informa- tion children can construct. Technology also sup- ports learning by providing children with a range of tools to use in their explorations. Digital and COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL st e m e d u c at i o n 11