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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 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 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL