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of measurement. The teacher also plans to cre-
ate short video clips of each child experimenting
in the center and e-mail them to the children’s
homes. That way, the children can discuss their
scientific experiments at home with their fami-
lies. Finally, the teacher hopes to introduce chil-
dren’s books related to road construction (civil
engineering) and draw connections to the chil-
dren’s experiments with inclines. The intentional
planning of the teacher transforms a nice sci-
ence center into an integrated STEM center that
stimulates children’s thinking in all four STEM
disciplines. Planning STEM
Learning Centers
Throughout this book, STEM education is de-
fined as the integration of at least two of the
STEM disciplines, typically mathematics and
science. Establishing connections across cur-
riculum areas is regarded as important by pro-
fessional educational organizations in early
childhood (Copple and Bredekamp 2009), math-
ematics (National Council of Teachers of Math-
ematics 2000), and science (National Research
Council 1996). By establishing a STEM learning
center as a regular component in the classroom,
teachers can ensure that children have many
opportunities to investigate concepts in science
and mathematics and to connect learning in the
two disciplines.
When planning STEM learning centers,
teachers can start with a science or mathemat-
ics topic and then integrate goals and materials
from one or more of the other STEM disciplines.
Although educators often think first of science
when planning a STEM curriculum, either science
or mathematics provides a good starting point.
For example, in a class that has been explor-
ing pendulums, the teacher might decide to use
a magnet as the weight (bob) on the pendulum
and provide paper clips for the children to try to
pick up as they swing the pendulum (Activity 2.5).
The experience quickly takes on a mathematical
16 c ha p te r 2
element when the teacher encourages the chil-
dren to quantify and compare how many paper
clips they collect with the magnet. This activity is
an example of a science topic that is extended to
include mathematics, thereby making it a STEM
experience. Or perhaps the children have been
exploring geometric shapes at the math center in
their classroom. The teacher, who wants to ex-
tend their understanding of geometry to include
discussions about how geometric shapes appear
in nature, brings in an assortment of natural
items that illustrate this concept. The children
sort the natural objects into categories based on
their shapes. In this example (Activity 2.16), the
teacher extends a mathematics topic to include
science. Both of these examples illustrate how
learning can increase when teachers make con-
nections across content domains.
Like traditional science centers, STEM learn-
ing centers should include a small table or bench
to hold materials for exploration. It should offer
enough space for several children to use the cen-
ter at a time. Interaction with peers, as the story
with Mina and Zach illustrates, allows children to
exchange ideas, model learning strategies, and
compare results. Communication is an impor-
tant component of STEM learning.
In addition to science and math materials,
STEM centers should include technology tools
to facilitate learning. Magnifying glasses, bal-
ance scales, and interlocking cubes for measur-
ing length are examples of simple technology.
More sophisticated technological devices, such
as computers, digital cameras, and overhead
projectors, may be kept nearby to extend or re-
cord learning. Books and pictures that connect
the STEM learning materials to examples in the
real world should also be regular components of
the center.
The location of STEM learning centers within
the classroom is also important. Positioning
the STEM center near a window may be advan-
tageous since some activities require natural
light. Also, auxiliary items such as bird feeders,
thermometers, or window-box planters can be
located outside the window to connect indoor
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