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The role of STEAM in Early Years education

How STEAM plays an invaluable part in helping your child develop the three Characteristics of Effective Learning.

STEAM education in early years/kindergarten - BIS HCMC

The Characteristics of Effective Learning are a key part of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. These characteristics are the main attributes we are looking to observe in our youngest students to ensure they are effectively learning from their activities and experiences at school. The characteristics can be split into three main categories:

  • Playing and exploringare children actively engaging with their environment and showing a willingness to try something new?
  • Actively learningare children showing signs of perseverance when they have difficulties with a task and celebrating their achievements?
  • Creating and thinking critically can children think of their own ideas, understand links between them and create strategies for completing tasks?

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) plays an instrumental part in helping your child to develop these characteristics of effective learning. For our youngest learners, STEAM can be defined as children playing, exploring and learning new things about the world around them. Through this method of investigation children quickly develop the tools to make choices, discover new opportunities and solve problems; skills essential for success later in life.

Our world-leading teachers here at the British International School, Ho Chi Minh City are constantly looking for new opportunities to support and promote your child’s exploration of STEAM and thus their development of the three characteristics of effective learning. Maria Shooter, F3 Year Leader describes how she ventured away from the Early Years and Infant Campus to further the learning of her 4 and 5 year olds,

“Our F3 classes visited the Secondary Design and Technology studios to learn a range of skills as they constructed their own wind up car as part of their Transport topic. We saw excited, curious, engaged active learners and critical thinkers.

Children demonstrated fantastic problem solving skills; undoing a screw, for example, to show their understanding that if they re-screwed it, it would help to hold the elastic band. One child was frustrated that the wheel of his car kept spinning and his car would not go very far. Once we added elastic bands onto the wheels, we called them tyres and even used the word ‘friction’. Our F3 child was delighted that his car worked but most importantly, he persevered, kept testing, worked with his teacher, kept questioning and worked it out.”

Preschool STEAM education - BIS HCMC

Children are naturally inquisitive and motivated to solve problems. When provided with the environment to actively learn, children make decisions for themselves, learn from making mistakes and develop strategies to deal with problems that arise.

The use of simple tools in this activity such as hammers, wheels and elastic bands supports children’s cognitive development. Children are able to observe the tools being used, experiment with them and learn from the fundamental cause and effect. Handling these types of tools also provides development for children’s fine motor skills; learning to use smaller muscles in the hands, fingers and wrists.

“Children used drills with adult support, used screwdrivers and hammers independently and practiced their fine motor skills as they put together component parts for their cars,” explained Maria.

Activities like this are important for young learners to really understand how things work in the world. Children are able to comprehend the notion of going from small component parts to creating something they identify and can then talk about,

“There was enthusiasm and motivation for the testing stage and the predicting of whose car could go further. Some children understood that the more they wound it up, the further it would go, so they were starting to use higher order thinking and application skills.”

An additional benefit of STEAM education in the early years is its ability to promote the use of more advanced vocabulary.

“The children learned technical language around cars such as ‘body’ and ‘axle’. It was superb to see children with new and emerging vocabulary, starting to understand and use more complex language.”

It’s important to note that as STEAM activities are inherently hands-on and exploration based they can also provide invaluable opportunities for dual language learners to build confidence and become actively involved.

STEAM Co-ordinator here at BIS HCMC, Mr James Chandler provides his thoughts on the importance of these opportunities in early years education,

“By exploring and developing STEAM skills at such a young age, we are nurturing key attributes such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and perseverance and allowing our young learners to really understand how things work. Children begin to learn that from the use of materials and tools, we can design and create things that better enhance the world that we live in.”

Learn more:

Early Years and Infant Campus | BIS HCMC

Early Years and Infant Campus

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