To view this page ensure that Adobe Flash Player version 11.1.0 or greater is installed.

DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Teachers are accustomed to planning integrated curriculum activities that relate to literature or literacy. They may be less accustomed, however, to planning activities that integrate mathematics and science. Yet this coordination of curricula is important to young children’s learning and lies at the heart of STEM education. Professional organizations in mathematics and science echo this need. For example, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000) encourages teachers to help children connect mathematics to other contexts, and the National Science Edu­ cation Standards urge teachers to coordinate science and mathematics programs (National Research Council 1996). Components of STEM Although four disciplines are included in the ac- ronym STEM, science and mathematics are the most familiar to teachers of young children. Even so, many early childhood teachers fail to capital- ize on the science opportunities that are embed- ded throughout the classroom. Adult support is critical if young children are to maximize their foundational learning. As an example, most pre- school classrooms incorporate water wheels in the sensory table, and children delight in watch- ing these wheels spin as they pour water through them. Yet most children won’t consider the rela- tionship between the amount of water they pour over the wheel and how fast the wheel spins un- less an adult is there to stimulate this thinking. A simple question such as, “How can you make the wheel go slowly?” can focus children’s attention on the force of moving water and factors that af- fect it. Children who are stimulated in their early years by insightful questions like this become immersed in scientific inquiry. They develop the desire to experiment and learn more. So it is essential that early childhood teachers begin to think of themselves as science teachers who can stimulate children’s thinking throughout the day. Many early childhood teachers also do not think of themselves as math teachers, even though mathematics is a critical component of the curriculum in preschool and kindergarten. Teachers may feel uncomfortable with mathe- matics, their math anxiety often dating to their own elementary school experiences (Philipp 2007). While teachers may count objects with chil- dren or read counting books, they often do not engage in math discussions and problem-solving activities that expand children’s thinking. Here is an example. Wendy and Jason begin to argue during snack because Jason thinks Wendy has more grapes than he does. The teacher responds, “I gave you each five. You have the same.” This type of response shuts down conversation and mathematical thinking. Instead, the teacher might ask Jason why he thinks Wendy has more grapes. Perhaps Jason’s grapes are clumped to- gether and Wendy’s are spread apart, making it appear that Wendy has more. If the teacher asks Wendy and Jason how they can figure out if one of them has more grapes, then the children become the problem solvers. They may decide to match their grapes in a one-to-one correspondence fash- ion, or they may actually count them. Either way, the children will have gained confidence in their ability to solve their own problems. Sometimes teachers may be unwilling to accede power to children because they are afraid the children will come up with the wrong answer. What if they decide Wendy really does have more grapes? At this point, the teacher can provide further scaf- folding. She might say, “Wait a minute. When you paired up the grapes on your plate, this grape on Jason’s plate got left out.” This type of inter- vention can help children recognize and correct their own mistakes. Because engineering is a profession that is pursued in college, it seldom occurs to teachers to connect children’s activities to real-life engineer- ing jobs. When children design and build block structures, they need to know that this is also what architects and engineers do. A walk around the neighborhood might stimulate children to incorporate unique features into their own block designs, especially if photographs (technology) are used to preserve the images of the neighborhood COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL st e m e d u c at i o n 3