S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is ‘on the list’ for educators. America has been playing catch-up.
Preschoolers? Yes, they love science and exploring. Yes, they love their devices. Yes, they love building and figuring it out. Yes, they love numbers and counting.
But… once in a while, an opportunity comes along to really bring S.T.E.M. to life. That happened this week at school. We’re learning about Africa. I pulled out the iPad at lunchtime to show children a video of a safari Jeep.
Here is what ‘accidentally’ popped up (thank goodness):
Forget lunch. I was out of my seat like a hot potato showing this video to the children. The conversation went like this:
“Who likes robots?”
Every hand shot up into the air.
“Did you know that you can build a robot?”
“Yes, you can!”
All the while during this conversation I am walking over to the children, panning the video in front of them.
“You can build a robot! Do you like science?” (Yes!) “Do you like building things?” (Yes!) “Do you like numbers and counting?” (Yes!) That’s STEM; science, technology, engineering and math. Do you want to make robots?” (Yes!) “You can!”
We stopped often to look closely at the robots. The dog was a favorite. And whenever a child asked, “How did they do that?”, the question was music to my ears.
The children couldn’t get enough of this. So, we wrote a letter to Boston Dynamics, the company who made the robots. Here are the children’s words and their robot drawings:
Of course I followed through with my own teacher letter. I wanted to tell them- while they may think this is fun with robots, they are actually inspiring future engineers. Why? Because learning needs to be fun in order to educate children.
I love moments of teaching, where the world of possibilities comes alive for children. Children need to hear that they can. Children need a champion.
The next day I was ready to show the safari Jeep at our Morning Meeting. “Jennie, can we see the robot video instead?” Of course. Children have since asked for this video repeatedly. Frankly, it is a giant magnet.
Even at rest time, children want to wake up to the robots.
Children know in order to build robots you have to be good at math. We do math activities every day, but we have ramped it up:
“Can you count the number of children, just with your eyes? No words and no pointing with your finger. Can you do that?” Yes this was hard. We had much pre-planning and practice, yet it isn’t easy. Building robots isn’t easy either.
We rolled one die, then said aloud the number of dots. This is subitizing, knowing how many without counting. It is hard. Building a robot is hard, too.
Suddenly math is a much bigger interest. Music and robots can do that. Just look at what we built after our math activities.