stem research (7)

Welcome to the third blog post of our MythBuster series.

Last week, we talked about how children’s learning and development in literacy and STEM can be intertwined. This week, we are going to bust a myth that sometimes deters practitioners or families from carrying out STEM activities with young children. 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD. 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

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By Chih-Ing Lim,  PhD.

Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

Myth 3: STEM learning is too expensive

Fact: You do not need to purchase expensive toys or materials to engage young children in STEM learning. STEM learning opportunities are everywhere, including during daily routines1,2,3,4. For example, cooking or mealtime is a perfect opportunity to engage children in STEM concepts4,5. While preparing snacks, children can count a small number of dry ingredients that you are going to use and bring it to you. Children may also experiment with measuring cups of different sizes, and guess which one holds more, or observe how butter changes from solid to liquid when it melts.

Adults, not toys, are key in children’s development and learning. Adult-child interactions are critical in supporting children’s development across all domains of learning6,7,8. Additionally, adults who are intentional in providing learning experiences and opportunities that balanced self-directed play and adult-facilitated instruction can contribute to children’s development in math9. Young children are active learners and are naturally curious about the world around them. With adults’ support, they can have rich learning opportunities within everyday experiences and without expensive materials or toys.

References

  1. Tudge, J. R. H. & Doucet, F. (2004). Early mathematical experiences: Observing young Black and White children’s everyday activities. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 21-39.
  2. Andrews, K. J. & Wang, X. C. (2019). Young Children’s emergent science competencies in everyday family contexts: A case study. Early Child Development and Care, 189, 1351-1368.
  3. Lee, J. & Junoh, J. (2019). Implementing unplugged coding activities in early childhood classrooms. Early Childhood Education Journal, 47, 709-716.
  4. Sikder, S., Fleer, M. (2015). Small Science: Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Science in Everyday Family Life. Research in Science Education, 45,445–464.
  5. Susperreguy, M. I. & Davis-Kean, P. E. (2016). Maternal Math Talk in the Home and Math Skills in Preschool Children,Early Education and Development, 27, 841-857.
  6. Hamre, B.K.; Pianta, R.C. (2001). Early teacher-child relationships and the trajectory of children's school outcomes through eighth grade.Child Development, 72, 625–638.
  7. Howes, C.; Fuligni, A.S.; Hong, S.S.; Huang, Y.D.; Lara-Cinisomo, S. (2013). The preschool instructional context and child–teacher relationships.Early Education and Development, 24, 273–291.
  8. Rodriguez, E. T. & Tamis-LeMonda, C. S. (2011). Trajectories of the home learning environment across the first 5years: Associations with children’s vocabulary and literacy Skills at Prekindergarten. Child Development, 82, 1058-1075.
  9. Fuligni, A.S., Howes, C., Huang, Y.D., Hong, S.S., Lara-Cinisomo, S. (2012). Activity settings and daily routines in preschool classrooms: Diverse experiences in early learning settings for low-income children. Early Child. Research Quarterly,27, 198–209.
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Welcome to our week 2 of MythBuster series.

Last week we debunked the myth that STEM is only for older students or gifted children, and it is too difficult for young children or children with disabilities to understand, this week we will tackle the myth that language and literacy skills are more important than STEM knowledge and skills.

 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD. 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

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By Chih-Ing Lim,  PhD.

Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

Myth#2:  Language and Literacy skills are more important than STEM knowledge and skills

Fact: All aspects of children’s development are equally important and intertwined. In fact, STEM and language and literacy can go hand in hand. For example, during shared book reading, children not only develop their language and literacy skills1, but can also learn about math2 or science concepts3. While reading storybooks, adults can ask open-ended questions, pose problems, and discuss STEM concepts with children.4,5 While answering the questions, children will also have opportunities to build their vocabulary and make sense of the plot. Additionally, evidence shows how intricately twined literacy is to STEM, in that children improve their math, early literacy, and reading when they start learning science concepts early.6 Furthermore, early exposure to math content and activities could be a strong predictor of later academic achievement.7

Given these evidence, we know that literacy and STEM are false dichotomies. At STEMIE, we are developing a series of examples on how families can use dialogic reading and make adaptations to the books to have conversations on various STEM topics using some readily available books. Stay tuned for our new series!

References:

  1. Saracho, O. N. (2017). Parents’ shared storybook reading – learning to read. Early Child Development and Care, 187,554-567.
  2. Green, K. B., Gallagher, P. A., & Hart, L. (2018). Integrating Mathematics and Children’s Literature for Young Children With Disabilities. Journal of Early Intervention, 40, 3–19.
  3. Gonzalez, J. E., Pollard-Durodola,S., Simmons, D. C., Taylor, A. B., Davis, M, J., Kim, M., & Simmons, L.(2010). Developing Low-Income Preschoolers’ Social Studies and Science Vocabulary Knowledge Through Content-Focused Shared Book Reading. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 4, 25-52, 
  4. Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen, M. & Elia, I. (2012): Developing a framework for the evaluation of picturebooks that support kindergartners’ learning of mathematics, Research in Mathematics Education, 14, 17–
  5. Pantoya, M. & Aguirre-Munoz, Z. (2017). Inquiry, Talk, and Text: Promising Tools that Bridge STEM Learning for Young English Language Learners. American Society of Engineering Education, 1, 7679-7695. 
  6. Paprzycki, P., Tuttle, N., Czerniak, C. M., Molitor, S., Kadervaek, J., & Mendenhall, R. (2017). The impact of a Framework-aligned science professional development program on literacy and mathematics achievement of K-3 students. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54, 1174-1196.
  7. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., ... Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428–1446.

 

 

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Children start developing STEM concepts and skills when they are babies and they know more about STEM than you think. 

 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

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Chih-Ing Lim,  PhD.
Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

 

Myth #1: STEM is only for older students or gifted children, and it is too difficult for young children or children with disabilities to understand. 

Fact: ALL children, regardless of disability, culture, race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status, have the capacity to engage in STEM learning.1,2 In fact, children start developing STEM concepts and skills when they are babies and they know more about STEM than you think.3,4 For example, babies begin by exploring the world using different sense.5 Then, they start making sense of cause and effect through play, observation, or trial and error, which lays the foundation of later STEM thinking skills and problem-solving skills. Also, several researchers have highlighted that toddlers may understand the fundamental aspect of counting, and spatial understanding years earlier than we thought.4,6

High-quality STEM learning experiences and opportunities pave the way for later success in school and in the workplace.7,8 Recognizing that children can start learning the fundamentals of STEM concepts at such a young age, it is important to ensure that young children with a wide range of abilities and from a variety of social backgrounds have access to and can fully participate in high-quality STEM learning opportunities. Children with disabilities often demonstrate a lower level of achievement in STEM not because they cannot learn STEM but because they have fewer STEM opportunities in their home or school.9 By the time children are in high school, participation of children with disabilities in STEM courses is very low.10

Taken together, these sources of evidence tell us that young children with or without disabilities can learn STEM and should not be denied opportunities to high quality early STEM learning experiences.

 

References

  1. Clements, D. H., Guernsey, L., McClure, E., Bales, S. N., Nichols, J., &  KendallTaylor, N. (2016, May  31). Fostering STEM trajectories: Background & tools for action. Paper presented at the Eponymous Meeting of New America, Washington, D.C.  https://www.newamerica.org/educationpolicy/events/fostering-stemtrajectories/https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/events/fosteringstem-trajectories/
  2. Sarama, J., Clements, D. H., Nielsen, , Blanton,  M., Romance, N., Hoover, M., . . . McCulloch, C. (2018). Considerations for STEM education from PreK through grade  3. Retrieved from Education Development Center, Inc. website: http://cadrek12.org/resources/considerations-stem-education-prek-throughgrade-3
  3. Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum (2016). The Root for STEM success: Changing early learning experiences to build lifelong thinking skills. Retrieved from: http://centerforchildhoodcreativity.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/02/CCC_The_Roots_of_STEM_Early_Learning.pdf
  4. Wang, J. & Feigenson, L. (2019). Infants recognize counting as numerically relevant. Developmental Science, 22: e12805. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12805,
  5. Gopnik, A., Meltzoff, A. N., & Kuhl, P. (2000). The scientist in the crib: What early learning tells us about the mind. New York, NY:  Harper Collins.
  6. Uhlenberg, J.M., Geiken, R. (2020). Supporting Young Children’s Spatial Understanding: Examining Toddlers’ Experiences with Contents and Containers. Early Childhood Education Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-020-01050-8
  7. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A.,  Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., . . . Japel, C. (2007).  School readiness and later achievement.  Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428–1446. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1428
  8. Duncan, G. J. & Magnuson, K. (2011). The Nature and Impact of Early Achievement Skills, Attention Skills, and Behavior Problems. In G. J. Duncan and R. J. Murnane (eds.), Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances. (PP. 47-69). New York, NY: Russell Sage.
  9. Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC). (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  10. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CDRC). (2018). STEM course taking. Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/stem-course-taking.pdf

 

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What do you think about when someone asks you about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) learning for young children?  

 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

What do you think about when someone asks you about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) learning for young children?  You may think: 

STEM? Probably not for babies.

“I think we should just focus on talking and reading.”

“Children need to play. STEM is too academic.” 

“It is too difficult for children with disabilities to learn STEM. It is also challenging for me to teach them STEM.”  

Last fall, we asked 29 early childhood STEM experts what were some misconceptions about early STEM learning they have come across in their work. We then analyzed and organized their responses, and searched the literature to debunk the myths and misconceptions with facts.

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At the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMI2E2) center, one of the first tasks we did was to take a look at what kind of research evidence exists in STEM learning and young children with disabilities. We conducted a scoping review and found that a majority of the references were related to children of preschool age (3-4 years old). Very few discussed infants/toddlers and children with disabilities.

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By Christine Harradine, PhD

PD Specialist at the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

One of the first tasks we did when we started our work a year ago was to take a look at what kind of research evidence exists in STEM learning and young children with disabilities. We conducted an extensive review of the research – called a scoping review – to see what we could find.  We searched 102 different sources such as databases, direct searches of journals, reports, conference proceedings, master’s theses, presentation transcripts, films, and dissertations) with 20 search terms.  This yielded 1,407 unique references, which two-person teams independently reviewed for exclusion based on age and topic. We ended up with 486 unique references, which we categorized in several ways.

The scoping review found that the vast majority (92.6%) of these 486 references were related to children of preschool age (3-4 years old). Very few discussed infants (1.9%) or toddlers (1%). 

We also wanted to know if these 486 references covered young children with disabilities. We allowed the search to cover STEM learning in all early care arrangements (e.g., home, child care, preschool, Head Start, etc.) for all children with and without disabilities, ages birth to five years. Only 6% (n=29) of the references we found referred to children with disabilities. 
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Children can develop the foundations for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning right from infancy. Yet children with developmental delays and disabilities are especially denied opportunities to learn STEM.  By the time children get to high school, the disparity in STEM learning is very obvious (see chart below).  Data from the Department of Education show a large disparity in enrollment in STEM courses between high school students with (IDEA) and without a disability.

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Chih-Ing Lim,  PhD.
Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

For us as a field, this presents opportunity for improvement in early childhood STEM learning. We know preschoolers’ free play involves STEM skills as they explore patterns and shapes; engineer with various materials; and explore scientific concepts. Even infants and toddlers’ exploration of the world around them is STEM-related — as they experiment with concepts of cause and effect, shapes, and experience with their senses. We also know families are children's first and longest lasting teachers. Families are more likely to implement and use intervention practices when they understand the benefits. Yet, how do we move the dial more toward including young children with disabilities in STEM learning? One way is to center instruction around learning trajectories or developmental progression. We’ll talk about the process more in future posts. Doing so focuses practitioners’ attention on children’s thinking and learning rather than their memberships in diverse groups (e.g., racially, ability). Using learning trajectories also helps avoid perceptions that can negatively affect early childhood STEM teaching and learning.


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