Practice (7)

Read the blog post written by Dr. Hsiu-Wen Yang and Dr. Michaelene M. Ostrosky, and learn how to embed STEM learning opportunities during motor play.  

4227604811?profile=RESIZE_180x180

By Hsiu-Wen Yang, PhD. 

Technical Assistance Specialist at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

9785866857?profile=RESIZE_180x180

By Michaelene M. Ostrosky,  PhD.

Grayce Wicall Gauthier Professor of Education in the Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

About the authors:

Dr. Hsiu-Wen Yang is a technical assistance specialist at the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIE) Center and North Carolina Early Learning Network whose work aims to ensure ALL young children are included and can fully participate in learning activities. As a former occupational therapist, she has worked with young children with developmental disabilities and their families in a variety of settings (e.g., home, school, hospital). Her research focuses on early intervention, family-centered practices, parent coaching, inclusive practices, and social-emotional development.

Dr. Michaelene M. Ostrosky has been involved in curriculum development and research on the inclusion of children with disabilities, social emotional competence, and challenging behavior. Through her work on the National Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning she was involved in the development of the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Young Children, and recently co-authored Unpacking the Pyramid Model: A practical guide for preschool teachers (2021). She also co-authored the Making Friends book (2016), which supports the acceptance of individuals with disabilities, and The Project Approach for All Learners (2018).

Gross motor play has a positive impact on children’s physical health and motor development, as well as contributing to pre-academic learning such as critical thinking skills, language development, and social-emotional development (Trawick -Smith, 2014). Nevertheless, some adults may wonder about the connection between motor play and STEM learning. Research shows that engagement in motor play provides important opportunities for children to develop pre-math skills and an understanding of spatial, temporal, and sequential concepts (Becker et al., 2014; Iverson, 2010), which are all related to STEM learning. Imagine a child who is playing with a ball. What STEM learning opportunities can you identify from this motor play? Here are some potential answers:

  • Gravity: If you throw a ball toward the sky, it will fall to the ground
  • Force and motion: If you push hard against a ball, it will roll across the floor

Below we have described a few activities and strategies to help you engage all children in STEM learning during motor play. These are based off of an early childhood curriculum, CHAMPPS: CHildren in Action: Motor Program for PreschoolerS (Favazza & Ostrosky, in press).

March around

  • Play Description: Ask children to march/jog/gallop/skip in a circle
  • Embed STEM learning:
    • Create movement patterns (e.g., march forward 5 steps, then backwards 5 steps).
    • Identify body parts as children do a motor activity, such as I am marching with my legs.
    • Ask children if they are feeling hot and sweaty following participation in a motor activity? Why do they think they feel that way?
    • Discuss how fast our hearts are beating after engaging in vigorous motor play. Ask children to touch their hearts and describe what they feel (i.e., Is their heart beating fast? Why?).

Animal Hopping

  • Play Description: Ask children “Which animals hop?” (i.e., bunny, frog, kangaroo). Then, ask children to jump around the room like the animal they named. Ring a bell after a minute or two and say Here comes a tiger!  Encourage children to return to their original spaces when they hear that phrase. Repeat 3-5 times and have children select a different animal, each time. 
  • Embed STEM learning:
    • Encourage children to count the number of times they hop
    • Use measurement words: hop higher, hop further
    • Emphasize position words: around, over, next to
    • Ask questions about different animals (e.g., What do they eat? Where do they live? What animal likes to chase rabbits?)

Considerations, Adaptations, and Accommodations:

Some children with disabilities need intentional and planned support from teachers and parents to help them access and participate in a variety of learning experiences. To ensure that all children can fully participate and engage in motor play and STEM learning, consider adapting the environment, materials, and instructions (see CARA’s Kit (Milbourne & Campbell, 2007 for ideas). You can:

  • Arrange the furniture to ensure that children can move around safely
  • Model and have children imitate movements, so that they can make connections between the words and movements
  • Use visual support cards to show the movements (see Image 1, Favazza & Ostrosky, in press)

9785857090?profile=RESIZE_400x

  • Give children choices by asking them which movement they would like to do next, how many times they should do the movement, what pattern they should create (i.e., hop, walk, hop, walk), etc.
  • For children with physical disabilities, adapt the movements (i.e., both hands up in air versus hopping with two feet off the ground, holding onto something stationary like a chair or adult while hopping, etc.).

References
Becker, D. A., McClelland, M. M., Loprinzi, P. & Trost S. G. (2014) Physical Activity, Self-Regulation, and Early Academic Achievement in Preschool Children. Early Education and Development, 25, 56-70, DOI: 10.1080/10409289.2013.780505

Favazza, P. C. & Ostrosky, M. M. (in press). CHAMPPS: CHildren in Action: Motor Program for PreschoolerS. Paul H Brookes. 

Iverson, J. M. (2010). Developing language in a developing body: The relationship between motor development and language development. Journal of Child Language, 37(2), 229-261.

Milbourne, S., & Campbell, P. H. (2007). CARA's Kit: Creating adaptations for routines and activities. Philadelphia: Thomas Jefferson University, Child and Family Studies Research Programs. Distributed by DEC (www.dec-sped.org).

Trawick -Smith (2014). The physical play and motor development of young children: a review of literature and implications for practice. Retrieved from the web at: http://www1.easternct.edu/cece/files/ 2014/06/BenefitsOfPlay_LitReview.pdf.

Read more…
Read this blog post written by Dr. Ketchum and learn the strategies to explore and develop concepts of cause and effect with children at all ages and abilities! 

9443679474?profile=RESIZE_400x
By Dr. Aimee Ketchum 

 About the author: 

Dr. Aimee Ketchum is a pediatric occupational therapist with over 24 years of experience working in pediatrics. She currently practices in the neonatal intensive care unit at UPMC hospital in Lititz where she founded the NICU retired nurse cuddler program. Ketchum is also academic fieldwork coordinator and assistant professor of early childhood development in the occupational therapy doctorate department of Cedar Crest College. Ketchum creates and teaches workshops on early child development through PA Quality Assurance System for pre-school teachers and early intervention practitioners. Ketchum is the founding director of Aimee’s Babies, LLC and creator of STEM Starts Now digital parenting program. She aims to create a next generation of innovators and problem solvers who are all afforded the ability to start kindergarten on an equitable playing field, giving all children everywhere the best start possible. Ketchum recently had her book “See Occupational Therapists Run” published by See Us Run Publishing.  This is a workbook to help fellow occupational therapists practice self-care to avoid burnout. Her baby development DVDs and apps have been featured on the Rachael Ray show, iPhone Essentials Magazine and the United Kingdom’s Baby and You Initiative. She was the winner of the 2017 Fine Living Lancaster Innovator Award, and the 2018 Social Enterprise Pitch and her work has been recognized with the prestigious Word Gap Challenge Finalist award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

When we realize that one event occurs after another event, we are likely to conclude that the first event caused the second event to happen. We draw these causal conclusions all day long and they greatly affect how we learn. If we get blisters every time we wear ill-fitting shoes, we learn to stop wearing ill-fitting shoes. Babies begin to draw conclusions to learn about their world as early as three months of age (Gopnik, 1999).  Studies show that babies are remarkably able to make inferences and learn new information without prior knowledge (Shultz et al., 2008).

When scientists tied a ribbon to a mobile and to the foot of a three-month-old-baby, the baby quickly learned that the physical action of kicking their foot made the mobile move and they are apt to try this trick over and over again (Rovee-Collier, 1990). Very young babies also learn important social lessons through cause and effect. They learn that when they cry, their needs are met by doting parents and caregivers who quickly respond to comfort them (Hyunjoo, Dale, & Kimbrough, 2018). 

 By the time babies are eight months old, they are usually intentionally throwing items over the edge of the high-chair tray to see if we will pick them up, splashing the bath water to watch it slosh over the edge of the tub, and banging blocks together to hear the loud sound.

Babies also use communication to learn cause and effect by making sounds to get parents attention and even babbling in back-and-forth conversations with parents. 

Babies learn cause and effect by performing an action, then using all of their senses to observe the results. What happens when a baby has a disability or a delay? It is important that all children have access and can participate in learning experiences to practice manipulating their world and observing the effects. For children with disabilities, adaptations to the environment, materials, and/or instruction can provide opportunities to fully participating in learning experiences.

Let’s begin by considering the baby’s positioning and asking ourselves: Are babies positioned so they can see and touch their toys? Tummy time or supported sitting are great positions for babies to visually observe their world. If babies are unable to hold their head up in tummy time, they can be positioned on their side with both arms in front of them and simple toys within reach. 

Next, present developmentally appropriate and stimulating toys or objects. Some babies with disabilities may have a sensory delay making it important to engage as many senses as possible. Toys and objects should be visually stimulating, textured for tactile input, make noises for auditory input, and can even be scented. Adaptations can also be made to toys/objects so that children with disabilities can engage with them.

In addition to proper positioning and providing developmentally appropriate and stimulating toys, families and caregivers can take an active role in helping babies learn cause and effect by talking with babies and engaging in interactive play. If children are unable to grasp a toy, it can be placed into their hand, or the hand-over-hand technique can be used so babies feel the tactile sensation. Some studies show that babies can learn cause and effect from observing other people interacting with an object and causing that object to change (Saxe, Tenenbaum, & Carey, 2007; Meltzoff, Waismeyer, & Gopnik, 2012). Families can encourage babies to watch them stack blocks, then bring the baby’s hand to the blocks to knock them down, so the baby observes the action and takes part in the effect. 

Strategies to explore and develop concepts of cause and effect with children at all ages and abilities. Note that the ages are estimates:

Newborn

  • Respond to baby’s cries in a timely manner to teach them that their needs will be met.
  • Wrist and bootie rattles are great for body awareness and learning that simple actions produce a noise.
  • Talk to babies all day to provide a foundation for language and pause for baby’s response after a question even before babies can talk and respond.

Babies

  • Hold baby and turn light switches on and off, narrating what you are doing and why. *Do not do this if baby has epilepsy.  Point out that the light is controlled by the switch. Encourage baby to try.
  • Provide toys or objects that stimulate all of the senses.
  • If babies are unable to hold and manipulate toys, do it hand-over-hand or adapt the materials to support exploration. Visit STEMIE’s Guide to Adaptations here
  • Water play or bathtime is a great sensory activity that teaches cause and effect because water reacts to movement. Use language as you play such as “full”, “empty”, “dump”, and “splash”.
  • Allow babies a lot of floor time with a variety of toys and household objects at their level to explore.
  • Respond to baby’s utterances and other forms of communication, begin to have back and forth conversations.

Nine-18 Months

  • Allow babies to learn to walk barefoot on different surfaces (e.g., grass, carpet) so they experience the textures on the bottom of their feet and learn how foot movements affect balance.
  • Explore sounds and music using musical instruments, household objects or loose parts (e.g., pots, ladles, plastic containers, cardboard boxes) because movement and sound are a fun way to learn cause and effect. Children who are deaf can also feel sounds and music and explore rhythms, pulses, and vibrations.
  • Mirrors are great for babies to see how their body moves and what their funny faces look like. 
  • As baby’s vocabulary grows, continue to have back and forth interactions and communication, ask and answer questions. 

18-24 Months

  • Outdoor play offers opportunities to engage different senses and use larger muscle groups to manipulate the world and learn from it.  Perhaps children can skip a rock in a pond to watch the ripples form or walk on a path with muddy footprints and observe the footprints being formed.
  • Interactive play with other children teaches social cause and effect skills for all children. 

Interactive and guided play, vast sensory experiences, back-and-forth conversations and communication, and lots of floor time with developmentally appropriate and safe toys and household objects within reach will help children start to understand concepts of cause and effect before they even have their second birthday.

 

References: 

Gopnik, A. (2010). How babies think. Scientific American, 303(1), 76-81. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26002102

Hyunjoo, Y., Dale B., & Kimbrough, O. (2018). The origin of protoconversation: An examination of caregiver responses to cry and speech-like vocalizations. 

Frontiers in Psychology. 9, 1510. https://doi.10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01510  

Kuhl, P., (2004). Early language acquisition: cracking the speech code. Natural Review Neuroscience. 5(11), 831-43.

Meltzoff, A. N., Waismeyer, A., & Gopnik, A. (2012). Learning about causes from people: observational causal learning in 24-month-old infants. Developmental 

psychology, 48(5), 1215–1228. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027440   

Michnick, Golinkoff & Pasek. (2016). Becoming Brilliant: What science tells us about raising successful children. American Psychological Association.

Muentener P, Carey S. (2010). Infants' causal representations of state change events. Cognitive Psychology. 61(2), 63-86.

Rovee-Collier, C.K. (1990). The memory system of prelinguistic infants. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: The development and neural bases of higher 

cognitive functions, ed. 608, 517-42. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.

Saxe, R., Tenenbaum, J., & Carey S. (2005). Secret agents: inferences about hidden causes by 10- and 12-month-old infants. Psychological Science. 16(12), 995-1001. http://doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01649.x. PMID: 16313665.                

Schulz, L. E., Goodman, N., Tenenbaum, J., & Jenkins, A. (2008). Going beyond the evidence: Abstract laws and preschoolers’ responses to anomalous data. 

Cognition, 109(2), 211-223.                                                 

Read more…

Outdoor Play and Sun Safety

Outdoor learning contributes positively to foundational STEM skills. However, children are at high risk of suffering sun burn from overexposure to UV radiation. Following are several recommendations for supporting sun safety and helping children with disabilities benefit from outdoor play.

6315281857?profile=RESIZE_180x180
By Sarah Pedonti

Ph.D. candidate in Applied Developmental Psychology and Special Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Education

About the author: Sarah Pedonti, M.Ed., is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Developmental Psychology and Special Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Education. Her research focuses on early reading and language interventions for young children with or at risk for developmental language disorders. She has worked in varied settings serving young children with disabilities, including Early Head Start, Head Start, North Carolina Pre-K (co-located within a Title I Engineering Magnet Elementary School), NC State’s Engineering Place Summer Programs, and the Office of Head Start’s National Center on Early Childhood, Development, Teaching, & Learning (NCECDTL)

Outdoor learning  is important for helping young children with and without disabilities to regulate attention (Szczytko et al., 2018) and improve learning engagement (Norwood et al., 2019) and contributes positively to foundational STEM skills such as spatial working memory (e.g. remembering the position of cards during a game of memory; Schutte et al., 2015). Yet, there may be hurdles to safe participation in outdoor learning for some children with disabilities, including sensory hypersensitivities which may cause difficulty with safety precautions such as sunscreen. 

Sunscreen use is important: one in five U.S. citizens will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime (Guy et al., 2015). Although children are at low risk for developing skin cancer in childhood, sun safety behaviors in childhood can prevent the overexposure to UV rays which are responsible for skin cancers in later adulthood (Autier et al., 1994a,b). A childhood history of severe sunburn significantly raises one’s lifetime chance of developing skin cancer (Iannacone et al., 2012; US Department of Health & Human Services, 2014). Some children with disabilities may be particularly at risk for severe sunburn due to genetic skin conditions such as ichthyosis or Ehler-Danos syndrome, or due to developmental disabilities such as autism (Kanellis, 2020). Some children with autism and other developmental disabilities may display sensory hypersensitivity (Baranak et al., 2007) to “light” tactile experiences like sunscreen application (Baranek & Berkson, 1994; Quinde-Zlibut et al., 2020). Sensory (e.g., autism) or physiological (e.g., icthyosis or similar dermatological disorders with acutely sensitive skin) difficulties associated with sunscreen application can make outdoor summer activity difficult for families. Following are several recommendations for supporting sun safety and helping children with disabilities benefit from outdoor play and to understand the scientific rationale for sun protection:

Universal:

  • Limit outdoor time to morning and late afternoon hours outside peak sun exposure when possible.
  • Reapply every 90-120 minutes- even “waterproof” sunscreens need reapplication, and will need so even more frequently if you’re in the water (FDA, 2019)
  • Seek the shade! Use a sun-tent or umbrella at the beach, and use playgrounds that have shady spaces under trees or sun sails.
  • Don’t forget the hat! 13% of all skin cancers occur on the scalp. (Prodinger et al., 2018)

Individualized:

Most of all, have FUN! Outdoor learning supports children with disabilities to learn, participate with their peers, and benefit cognitively from STEM experiences that occur outdoors. Sun safety precautions can protect children from future risk of skin cancer while encouraging their present-day learning!

 

References

Autier, P., Doré, J. ‐F, Schifflers, E., Cesarini, J. ‐P, Bollaerts, A., Koelmel, K. F., Gefeller, O., Liabeuf, A., Lejeune, F., Lienard, D., Joarlette, M., Chemaly, P., & Kleeberg, U. R. (1995). Melanoma and use of sunscreens: An EORTC case‐control study in Germany, Belgium and France. International Journal of Cancer, 61(6), 749–755. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.2910610602

Boyd, B. A., Baranek, G. T., Sideris, J., Poe, M. D., Watson, L. R., Patten, E., & Miller, H. (2010). Sensory features and repetitive behaviors in children with autism and developmental delays. Autism Research, 3(2), 78–87. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.124

Baranek, G., Boyd, B., Poe, M., David, F., & Watson, L. (2007). Hyperresponsive sensory patterns in young children with autism, developmental delay, and typical development. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 112(4), 233–245. https://doi.org/10.1352/0895-8017(2007)112

Baranek, G. T., & Berkson, G. (1994). Tactile defensiveness in children with developmental disabilities: Responsiveness and habituation. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24(4), 457–471. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02172128

Food and Drug Administration (2019) Sunscreen: How to Protect your Skin. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun#infants

Guy, G.P., Machlin S., Ekwueme, D.U., & Yabroff, K.R. (2015) Prevalence and costs of skin cancer treatment in the US, 2002–2006 and 2007–2011. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 48(8) 183–7.

Iannacone, M. R., Wang, W., Stockwell, H. G., O’Rourke, K., Giuliano, A. R., Sondak, V. K., Messina, J. L., Roetzheim, R. G., Cherpelis, B. S., Fenske, N. A., & Rollison, D. E. (2012). Patterns and timing of sunlight exposure and risk of basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin - a case-control study. BMC Cancer, 12(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2407-12-417

Kanellis, V. G. (2020). Barriers to sun safety in autism spectrum disorder. In Biophysical Reviews (Vol. 12, Issue 4, pp. 791–792). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12551-020-00732-2

Norwood, M.F., Lakhani, A., Fullagar, S., Maujean, A., Downes, M., Byrne, J., Stewart, A., Barber, B., Kendall, E., (2019). A narrative and systematic review of the behavioural, cognitive and emotional effects of passive nature exposure on young people: Evidence for prescribing change. Landscape and Urban Planning, 189, 71-79.

Prodinger, C. M., Koller, J., & Laimer, M. (2018). Scalp tumors. Journal Der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft = Journal of the German Society of Dermatology : JDDG, 16(6), 730–753. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddg.13546

Schutte, A. R., Torquati, J. C., & Beattie, H. L. (2017). Impact of Urban Nature on Executive Functioning in Early and Middle Childhood. Environment and Behavior, 49(1), 3–30. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916515603095

Szczytko, R., Carrier, S.J., Stevenson, K.T., (2018). Impacts of outdoor environmental education on teacher reports of attention, behavior, and learning outcomes for students with emotional, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities. Frontiers in Psychology, 3

Tripp, M., Herrmann, N., Parcel, G., Chamberlain, R., & Gritz, E. (2000). Sun protection is fun! A skin cancer prevention program for preschools. Journal of School Health, 70(10), 395–401. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.2000.70.issue-10

Quinde-Zlibut, J. M., Okitondo, C. D., Williams, Z. J., Weitlauf, A., Mash, L. E., Heflin, B. H., Woodward, N. D., & Cascio, C. J. (2020). Elevated thresholds for light touch in children with autism reflect more conservative perceptual decision-making rather than a sensory deficit. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14, 122. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.00122

US Department of Health & Human Services. (2014) The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. Washington, DC: US Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General.

Read more…

The home is an exciting place for children to learn and grow. Many parents enjoy engaging in learning experiences with their children such as shared book reading and game playing. However, when it comes to making math a part of the learning experience, many parents are unsure where to begin. This blog post provides fun, practical math experiences that can be done at home to help children develop critical math skills.

8811080653?profile=RESIZE_180x180

Dr. Michele Stites 8811081469?profile=RESIZE_180x180

Dr. Susan Sonnenschein

About the authors:

Dr. Michele Stites is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). She received her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction/Special Education from the George Washington University and her M.Ed. in special education from the University of Maryland College Park. Prior to her appointment at UMBC, she was the early childhood intervention specialist for a large school system in Maryland. Dr. Stites was an early childhood classroom teacher for 10 years working in both general and special education settings. Dr. Stites’ research interests focus on inclusive mathematics teaching practices and young children’s mathematics learning. As an assistant professor at UMBC she also works closely with teacher candidates. Dr. Stites has been widely published in both scholarly and practitioner-focused journals.

Dr. Susan Sonnenschein is a Professor in the Psychology Department at UMBC and the Graduate Program Director of the Applied Developmental Psychology Doctoral program. She received an M.S. degree from Penn State University in Educational Psychology, a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Stony Brook University, and is a certified (state of Maryland) school psychologist. Her research interests focus on factors that promote children’s educational success. She conducts research on family and school-based factors and how they affect children from different demographic backgrounds. In addition to having several hundred scholarly publications and presentations, she has written blogs and summaries of her research for nonprofessional audiences. One focusing on math activities to do with young children was published in the Conversation in 2018, http://theconversation.com/5-math-skills-your-child-needs-to-get-ready-for-kindergarten-103194

The learning activities young children engage in at home lead to better academic skills. We know that children who read different types of books at home are more likely to develop foundational literacy skills (Sénéchal & LeFevre, 2002; Serpell et al., 2005). And, many parents are confident that they know how to help their children learn to read (Sonnenschein, et.al., 2021). But what about math? How comfortable are parents with fostering their children’s math skills at home?

We recently asked 236 parents of preschoolers how confident they were assisting their children with reading and math skills at home. And, what we found was not surprising. Most parents thought it was very important for their children to read (86%) and do math activities at home (68%). However, they viewed reading as more important than math. Why do they view reading as more important? It may have to do with confidence. Only 32% of parents in our study reported that they were very confident in their ability to support their child’s math learning.

Given what we know about the importance of reading to children, and the need for more math exposure in the home, we should  link the two together! Making learning fun for young children and engaging their interest in such learning is positively associated with better academic skills (Sonnenschein et al., 2016).  Drilling children on skills is not (Serpell et al., 2005).

Many parents are confident engaging in dialogic reading experiences with their children and with minimal effort we can easily add math into the experience. Many parents also shared with us that they want fun, play-based ways to foster math skills at home (e.g. NO worksheets!). Here are some practical ideas:

Linking Storybook Reading to Math

  1. Expose their children to a variety of reading genres (e.g., storybooks, informational text) and find the math in the story. You do not need math themed books to do this! Count the number of bunnies, talk about shapes, find patterns, etc. Be sure to use mathematical language (e.g. “more”, “equal”, etc.) when talking about a math topic because it increases skill development (Akinci-Coşgun, et.al., 2020; Stites & Brown, 2019).
  2. Use a math themed book. Books like Anno’s Counting book and Ten Magic Butterflies are mathematically themed. Take the time to explore the math content. Questions like, “How many in all?” and “what comes next?” are great with counting books. If the book focuses on a skill like addition work on additional equations. “Wow, we just answered 2 + 1=3. Do you know what 2+2 equals?”
  3. Make use of digital and adapted books. If a child has a disability, adapted books are a great way to remove some of the barriers in traditional print books. In fact, all children, not just those with disabilities, often respond to the  different formats provided in these books.

Play-Based Math Learning

  1. Play board games. Games have been shown to be an effective way to engage with numbers and patterns. Take the time to question the child about numbers, shapes, and patterns.
  2. Take a nature walk. Notice the shapes in the leave. Count the clouds. The world is your oyster here!
  3. Build with blocks or Legos. Count the items and make patterns. Ask the child what comes next and how many there are altogether. Take some away and ask how many are left. Make shapes!
  4. Draw and create art. As the child is drawing ask her to make three more flowers. Use playdough and make shapes and patterns. And talk about the shapes the child and you create. The language used matters!

References

  1. Akinci-Coşgun, A, Stites, M.L., & Sonnenschein, S. (2020). Using storybooks to support young children’s mathematics learning at school and home. In Bekir, H., Bayraktar, V., & Karaçelik, S.N. (Eds.), Development in Education. Istanbul, Turkey: Hiperlink.
  2. Sénéchal, M., & LeFevre, J. A. (2002). Parental involvement in the development of children’s reading skill: A five-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 73 , 445–461.
  3. Serpell, R., Baker, L. & Sonnenschein, S. (2005). Becoming literate in the city: The Baltimore Early Childhood Project. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Sonnenschein, S., Metzger, S. R., & Thompson, J. A. (2016). Low-income parents’ socialization of their preschoolers’ early reading and math skills. Research in Human Development, 13, 207-224. doi: 10.1080/15427609.2016.1194707
  5. Sonnenschein, S., Stites, M.L., & Dowling, R. (2021).  Learning at home: What preschool parents do and what they want to learn from their children’s teachers? Journal of Early Childhood Research. doi:10.1177/1476718X20971321
  6. Stites, M.L. & Brown, E.T. (2019). Observing mathematical learning experiences in preschool.  Early Child Development and Care. doi:10.1080/03004430.2019.1601089.
Read more…

Engineering can feel like a daunting concept to implement with your preschoolers, but young children are already capable and interested in engineering and design problems! They ask questions and identify problems to solve. So how can you engage your preschoolers in engineering? This blog post explains preschool engineering during a free-play session by building on children’s interests and identifies crucial teaching practices to push children’s engineering ideas and thinking forward.

About the author: Gurupriya a doctoral candidate in the Ed.D Curriculum and Instruction program at Boise State University, Gurupriya's work and research interests revolve around high quality preschool STEM practices and opportunities for inclusion of students with diverse needs. She received her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Syracuse University and worked as a preschool teacher in inclusive preschool programs. Prior to that, she worked as a special education teacher for young children with developmental disabilities in India. As a Research Assistant at Boise State University, she assists in research projects assessing teacher and parent perceptions and beliefs on early STEM education, and developing teacher supports for the implementation of early STEM education.

This blog post contains excerpts from an engineering activity conducted in an early childhood setting as part of the author’s dissertation.

Shanina’s preschoolers have been reading about different animal habitats. Some children expressed interest in building shelters.

Children’s interests, including interests related to engineering, can be sparked in numerous ways. Recognizing those interests requires keen observation by early educators. Interest may come from reading a story on the rug, from observations and exploration during play, or from sharing about life outside of school, or in the form of an engineering challenge. Research suggests that preschool children should actively engage in inquiry-based projects by asking questions, collecting data, and presenting it. A skilled teacher is crucial in guiding children through the experience (Torres-Crespo et al., 2014).

Problem-based scenarios can engage children in STEM activities and expand their interests. Educators present young children with a problem relevant to their lives, then encourage and support children as they imagine, plan, create, and improve solutions to these engineering design challenges (Tippet & Milford, 2017). Let’s take a look at how Shanina used problem-based scenarios to engage her preschoolers.

Wooden blocks and plastic straw ‘forts’: building on children’s interests.

To expand children’s interest in building shelters, Shanina set up a provocation at the block area. She set up wooden blocks and plastic straws of various sizes and taped pictures of different shelters built using blocks and loose parts.8677047499?profile=RESIZE_400x

Then she posed a problem-based scenario and invited children to explore further, saying, “I wonder if we could build a shelter for the animals using the blocks and straws. How can we make it stay standing?”

Children initially began exploring the plastic straws, but a group of three children soon had an idea of their own—they wanted to build a fort. Shanina encouraged them by asking, “What is your idea?” and “What are you going to use to build the fort?”. Children specified that they wanted to build a fort that could fit the three of them inside and hold the weight of the blanket covering it.

Children began connecting the plastic straws and building a cube-shaped structure that was as tall as them. While building, the children had an idea to make an entrance to the fort by leaving one part of the structure open. However, this led to design flaws:

  • a) the structure began tilting to one side and almost tipped over due to the lack of a balanced foundation, and
  • b) the entrance was too small for the children to fit through.8677052895?profile=RESIZE_400x

Rather than point out these design flaws, Shanina gave children the opportunity to:

  • explore with the materials laid out at the block area,
  • create their structure using the materials they chose,
  • test out their creations to see how well they would hold,
  • reflect on the testing results, and then
  • problem-solve how to improve upon their creations

In doing so, Shanina observed how children worked together to build their fort, problem-solve to strengthen the fort, create an even foundation, and leave enough space to enter the fort.

To anchor children’s thinking in the engineering design process, Shanina asked open-ended questions such as, “what is your design for the structure?” and “how will you make sure it stays up?”. Open-ended questions can also support children in thinking critically about their design and work together to solve their design problem.

To complete their fort, children wanted to cover it with a blanket. Shanina prompted the children to think intentionally about their design, asking, “Do you think the fort will be able to stay standing with the blanket over it? Let’s find out!”

The children tested two blankets of different weights. The first was too heavy—parts of the fort gave into the weight. But rather than get dejected, the children rebuilt their fort, urging, “It’s ok, we can build it again!”. They negotiated with one another, commenting, “You connect the straws on that side, and I’ll work on this side” and “Can you get me some straws from the box?”. Upon completion, the children tested their fort with the second, lighter blanket and found that the fort held its weight well.

8717201683?profile=RESIZE_584x

By building on children’s curiosity, what started as a simple exploration of connecting straws transformed into a fort construction engineering challenge. With teacher facilitation, children worked together to construct the fort and think through issues that arose. Using a problem-based scenario, introducing open-ended materials and loose parts, and asking open-ended questions engaged children’s interests and encouraged them to think critically as they participated in a problem-solving process.

Often this begins by identifying and documenting children’s curiosity, wonderings, and interests and then building on it. It can take the form of children or teachers identifying a problem or question that needs a solution. Perhaps students identified something in the playground that needs fixing or have a question about how a tool works. Perhaps during a lesson on habitats, students want to know more about birds and where they live. No matter the starting point for students’ interest in a topic, posing or framing it within a problem-based scenario, introducing open-ended materials and loose parts, and asking open-ended questions can not only build on children’s interests but also further encourage children to critically think about and engage in the problem-solving process.

Suggestions

Read more…

 Do you want to know how to engage children in STEM virtually? We are pleased to invite Dr. Mere-Cook to share some of her experiences with us! 

About the author: Yvette Mere-Cook has a Doctorate in Special Education from the University of San Francisco and a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Boston University.  Dr. Mere-Cook teaches at Boise State University in the Early and Special Education Department and researches the role of early childhood STEM education on the inclusion of children with disabilities.  Partnering with Idaho STEM Action Center, Dr. Mere-Cook led a team of early childhood educators in a year-long exploration on how to integrate STEM with young learners, both with and without disabilities.  Most recently, Dr. Mere-Cook has also returned to the classroom as a pediatric occupational therapist working with preschoolers with disabilities and providing them opportunities and access to STEM as a vehicle that drives their IEP goals.   

With the new school year in full swing, several young children with disabilities are participating over virtual platforms. Although we all wish we can be in the classroom, I have found a way to bring STEM learning to life through engaging in weekly groups that provide our students time to explore, create, and share with teachers, families, and classmates. 

Young children with disabilities do not always have the opportunities to explore their curiosities and interests at school. Explicit instruction, adult directed tasks, and specialized interventions often take priority in specially designed preschool classrooms. These evidence-based instructional supports are critical but they limit students’ naturally occurring opportunities to explore, create, and solve problems in ways that are meaningful to the child (Huskens et al., 2015; McClure et al., 2017; Steinbrenner et al., 2020)

Therefore, I established a weekly group that meets virtually and incorporates the steps of the engineering design process, Explore, Create, and Improve (Museum of Science, Boston, 2018).  Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions that could be helpful to families/ caregivers and educators alike.

8147972279?profile=RESIZE_584x

How do I design and present the weekly investigations?

  • I get to know the children’s interests: I surveyed families asking them to list the activities or topics that were of interest to their children. Building, painting, and cause and effect games on the IPAD were the top 3 choices.
  • I incorporate and work on children’s IEP goals during STEM learning: Although all children’s IEP goals are different, they often have areas in common: expressive language, fine motor skills, and self-regulation. I am mindful to provide opportunities for children to work on these goal areas. I also invite the children’s teachers and related service providers to observe and take data on specific goals.

For instance, the STEM Group is a wonderful opportunity to address social interactions and communication. I usually have 5-6 children in attendance and I ask parents and caregivers to unmute themselves.  For working on expressive language, I ask specific children questions such as, “Holly, what are you using to make your ramp?” or “Sam, what objects do you have today?”.  When testing the creations, I will ask students to say “Ready, Set, Go”  or count 1, 2, 3.  I also encourage children to look and comment on each other’s creations.  For instance, I say:  “Look!  Matt is using a book with a hard cover as his ramp. Jill, how is your ramp different from Matt’s?  For some students that use visual supports, I bring the choice boards or sentence strip so they can express themselves.

8147960064?profile=RESIZE_584x

  • I have a plan, but I follow the children’s lead: I create multi-week investigations centered children’s interests (building) and classroom themes (Fall leaves, pumpkins). I make certain to adjust weekly challenges based on the children’s engagement in the previous week and use their ideas to inform our next steps. So I have a plan, but I follow where the children take me.     
  • I give parents time to gather the materials: I inform families of the suggested materials needed for the STEM group with a short video clip explaining how we may use these items to explore and create solutions for the problem that the children will solve. I make certain to do this before the end of the week so parents have time over the weekend to prepare.
  • I use existing resources: I use the framework from Wee Engineer, the Preschool Curriculum from Engineering is Elementary (Museum of Science, Boston, 2018) to frame our problem. I use familiar Sesame Street characters over the screen to frame our engineering challenge:

8147983501?profile=RESIZE_400x

For example, I shared my screen that had this slide and described the following problem:  

Elmo wants to visit Abby at her house but he needs a boat that will help him float down the river.  Could you help Elmo by building a boat strong enough for him to float down the river?  We then start building and creating. Some children build with materials that I suggest such as folding aluminum foil or testing out different plastic food storage containers. Others go to their rooms and grab blocks or other building toys to test in the water. A few students add to creations that their parents and caregivers start for them. 

What strategies do I use with families to engage their children in STEM learning?

  • Explore Alongside the Child: Families and caregivers help children participate over virtual platforms such as Zoom. So we encourage parents and caregivers to stay and explore alongside their children. I talk to parents during the sessions and model how to point out similarities and differences in materials. For instance, when building a boat for Elmo, one child had a small piece of wood  and some aluminum foil. I asked parents to describe to their child how these are different.  For instance, I model, “The wood is thick and heavy. The foil is thin and very light.” 
  • Find Everyday Items can Promote STEM learning: I try to encourage families to take nature walks to find materials to explore such as leaves, pine cones, acorns, and sticks. I also ask families to save recyclables and broken electronics. These items and other loose parts provide rich opportunities for STEM learning (Daly & Beloglovsky, 2015).

8148013878?profile=RESIZE_584x

  • Use Books to Strengthen and Expand on STEM Concepts: I look for books, both fiction and non-fiction, that connect to our STEM investigations. Right now, since libraries are closed or have limited hours, I try to give families links to Read Alouds. For the boat investigation, I provided the books What Sinks? What Floats? by Rozanne Lanczak Williams and What Floats in a Moat, by Lynne Berry. It’s helpful if you can give families these resources as a way to preview the main concepts that will be explored during the upcoming STEM group. 

What other helpful tips can I give to parents/caregivers and educators for engaging young children with disabilities in STEM learning?

  • Provide time. Not all young children or young children with disabilities explore in the same way. So set aside time to explore and wonder.
  • Leave materials out for further investigation. Children may explore for a few minutes and then move to another part of the room. By leaving materials out after the STEM Group and accessible to them, young children with disabilities can explore in their own way and in their own time.
  • Embed needed accommodations and supports. For some students, they may be wary about trying new things. Therefore, I use a First–Then board when introducing a new investigation. This helps them know what we will be exploring and then they can engage in a more familiar activity. Also, as an occupational therapist, I am always mindful of sensory sensitivities and preferences. When engaging in the boat challenge, I asked parents/caregivers to use warm water for those children that are sensitive to cold and offer tools that allows them to move the items in the water without having to touch it.  These include measuring cups, spoons, age appropriate tongs, and other tools (strawberry huller, large spoon, and clothespins). 8148022663?profile=RESIZE_584x

References

  1. Daly, L. & Beloglovsky, M. (2015).  Loose Parts:  Inspiring Play in Young Children.  Redleaf Press. https://www.redleafpress.org/Loose-Parts-Inspiring-Play-in-Young-Children-P1128.aspx
  2. Huskens, B., Palmen, A., Van der Werff, M., Lourens, T., & Barakova, E. (2015).  Improving collaborative play between children with autism spectrum disorders and their siblings:  The effectiveness of a robot-mediated intervention based Lego       therapy.  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45,3746-3755. doi:  10.1007/s10803-014-2326-0
  3. McClure, E. R., Guernsey,L., Clements, D., Nall Bales,S., Nichols, J., Kendall-Taylor, N. & Levine M.H. (2017).  STEM starts early: grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood.” Education Digest 86(4): 43-51. http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/wpcontent/uploads/2017/01/jgcc_stemstartearly_final.pdf.
  4. Museum of Science (2016-2018). Engineering is Elementary, Wee Engineer Curriculum.
  5. Steinbrenner, J.R., Hume, K., Odom, S.L., Morin, K.L., Nowell, S.W., Tomaszewski, B., Szendrey, S. McIntryre, N.S., Yucesory-Ozkan, S., & Savage M.N. (2020).  Evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with autism.  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice Review Team.
Read more…

 Can baby learn STEM? In this blog post, we've put together a list of commonly asked questions with answers. Let's keep reading to find out! 

About the author: Philippa Campbell, occupational therapist, has implemented early childhood/early intervention development, demonstration, and field-based projects in areas related to infants and young children with or at risk for disabilities and their families, using practices such as adaptation and Assistive Technology interventions to promote children’s inclusion, participation and learning. Specific areas of interest include interdisciplinary (interprofessional) education higher education models and participation of infants and young children with disabilities via approaches such as coaching/teaching parents (and other adults) to implement strategies successfully within natural environments. This work has been supported through grants/contracts from many federal and state agencies as well as foundations. Dr. Campbell has published numerous articles, chapters, books and other materials and presented work internationally and nationally.

1. Can children learn STEM at home?

Yes! Of course! Generally, we think about STEM activities as being specially-designed learning activities that require specific toys or equipment for children to investigate or problem-solve. But, opportunities to learn about STEM can occur naturally within the daily lives of families and their young children with and without disabilities. Everyday activities such as bathing, cooking and mealtimes, or even cleaning,  riding in a car, or doing chores or errands offer opportunities for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children to learn about STEM at home. During bathtime, a child may use measuring cups or other containers to fill up with water, dump, or pour, learning about basic STEM concepts, such as cause and effect or concepts such as empty, full. A toddler might push a chair over to the stove and climb up solving the problem of how she can help cook the pancakes.  Both children have drawn conclusions from performing “experiments” within naturally occurring family activities and routines.

2. What can adults do to support STEM learning?

Children don’t necessarily learn STEM concepts just from simply being a part of activities and routines. Their learning is enhanced when facilitated adult-child interactions are used.  This means that the adults present during an activity or routine verbally point out STEM concepts and guide children to experiment, investigate, and problem solve.  During bathtime, for example, when children are playing with containers in the tub, the adult can narrate what is happening by saying things like “you are dumping water from one cup to another” or “you have the big yellow cup, I wonder what would happen if you pour the water into the little blue cup?”  When narrating what children are doing, adults can guide children by using language that is slightly above what the child is able to do.  For example, if the child is using one word, the adult might say “dump cup” – using language that is slightly more advanced than what the child is able to do.  The adult might also expand by saying “dump big cup” or “dump blue cup.”   Posing questions such as “I wonder what what would happen if ---” or “what do you think will happen when---“ set the stage for children to not just observe what happens but also be active participants by experimenting and problem solving.  Adults also may introduce key STEM vocabulary words so that children hear words associated wth science, technology, engineering, and math as related to a particular activity. 

3. How can we support STEM learning and participation for young children with disabilities?

While circumstances may limit children’s access and participation, limitations may be lessened and often totally eliminated by using environmental modifications and adaptations to activities, materials, or instruction.  Any naturally occurring activity or routine at home provides opportunities for STEM learning. Adaptations may be used to provide children with access to the activity and increase their opportunities for participation. When children actively participate with adaptations, they can acquire both foundational and complex thinking skills making up science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  Teachers, practitioners, and caregivers, the adults in children’s lives, should always be thinking about what they can do to figure out children’s interests, how they can use adaptations as go-arounds to ensure access and participation in activities, and what they can say to verbally support and expand children’s STEM learning.

4. What types of adaptations would help young children with disabilities engage and participate in STEM learning?

We can consider adapting the environment, activity, materials, requirements or instruction. There are many ways in which the environment or activities themselves may be modified to promote access and participation             

The following example illustrates how STEM concepts can be embedded into an activity that naturally occurs at home – in this case, cooking pancakes.  The table shows STEM concepts and suggests what the adult may do and how to address challenges to engagement and participation using adaptation solutions.    

STEM Learning AT Home: Cooking pancakes

Possible STEM Learning Concepts: Cause & Effect, Sequence, Measurement, Volume, Size, Matter; STEM Skills: Observation, Exploration, Experimentation, Problem-Solving

8018293856?profile=RESIZE_710x

Read more…
RSS
Email me when there are new items in this category –

Welcome

Hello and welcome to the STEM4EC Community.  We invite your participation.

Read More >

Vail McCole is now a member of stem4ec
Nov 16
STEMIE Center posted a blog post
Read the blog post written by Dr. Hsiu-Wen Yang and Dr. Michaelene M. Ostrosky, and learn how to embed STEM learning opportunities during motor play.  



By Hsiu-Wen Yang, PhD. 
Technical Assistance Specialist at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in…
Nov 9
STEMIE Center posted a blog post
Los niños pueden desarrollar las bases para el aprendizaje de CTIM (ciencia, tecnología, ingeniería, matemáticas) desde la infancia. Sin embargo, a los niños con retrasos en el desarrollo y discapacidades se les niegan especialmente las…
Nov 6
STEMIE Center posted a blog post
La casa es un lugar emocionante para que los niños aprendan y crezcan. Muchos padres disfrutan participando en experiencias de aprendizaje con sus hijos, tales como lectura de libros compartidos y juegos. Sin embargo, cuando se trata de hacer de las…
Nov 6
STEMIE Center posted a blog post
¡Bienvenido a nuestra nueva serie de portadas de libros de cuentos!




Escrito por Christine Harradine, PhD
Especialista de PD en el Centro de Innovación CTIM para la Inclusión en la Educación Temprana (STEMIE)

Escrito por Chih-Ing Lim, PhD.…
Nov 6
Elizabeth Paul is now a member of stem4ec
Nov 6
Leann Bailey is now a member of stem4ec
Oct 29
Cindy Lee is now a member of stem4ec
Oct 28
PA HOUA VANG is now a member of stem4ec
Oct 26
Emily Ropars is now a member of stem4ec
Oct 25
Maide Orcan and Merve Ozdemir are now friends
Oct 25
Ingrid Castaneda is now a member of stem4ec
Oct 21
STEMIE Center posted a blog post
Bienvenidos a nuestra segunda semana de nuestra serie Rompiendo Mitos.
La semana pasada desmentimos el mito de que CTIM  es sólo para estudiantes mayores o niños dotados, y es demasiado difícil para los niños pequeños o niños con discapacidades…
Oct 20
Catherine Bergman is now a member of stem4ec
Oct 15
Maria Cristina is now a member of stem4ec
Oct 7
Jen L Gossert is now a member of stem4ec
Oct 6
More…

Community Guidelines and Privacy Statement