STEM Training For Teachers

 

Over the past four years, the Early Learning Coalition of St. Lucie County has created and supported a STEM initiative that includes teacher training followed by monthly Community of Practice meetings for local early childhood educators.

STEAM students

Why STEM (or STEAM) Education?

Young children are constantly asking questions, and this innate curiosity is a perfect breeding ground for instilling new knowledge. In fact, studies show that children ages 3 and 4 can ask up to 300 questions a day! Those children are like little sponges, soaking up whatever information comes their way.

That’s one reason why STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Education has become an important part of early childhood classrooms. Research proves that most learning occurs during the first five years of life.

STEM projectYoung children are capable of considerable growth in all areas of the curriculum, but number sense specifically is linked to phonemic awareness and early reading skills, as well as mathematics achievement, in elementary school. In short, what a child learns during those early years has a lasting impact on future academic success.

Over the past four years, the Early Learning Coalition of St. Lucie County has created and supported a STEM initiative that includes teacher training followed by monthly Community of Practice meetings for local early childhood educators.

Focusing on STEM education has allowed early childhood educators to make connections with children and to create a lifelong love and curiosity for learning. By incorporating STEM education in the classroom, children learn problem solving skills, how to communicate effectively, how to expand on thought processes and gain confidence in their abilities.  These skills will help them as they navigate their future.

Training

The initiative begins with an intensive 8-week face to face training at Coalition offices where local teachers obtain knowledge about STEM education and activities they can immediately use in their classrooms.  During the STEM projectcourse of the training, teachers are asked to reinvent their classroom environments by rearranging and adding to their science and math center(s) in order to generate optimal student interest.  They track student interest by filling out a Child Interest Survey which determines first center choices on a weekly basis.  These surveys have shown considerable growth in children selecting math and science centers over the 8 weeks of training.

The participants also learn additional STEM experiences that help the children expand their previous learning and encourage engagement and persistence.  The teachers are asked to track children’s interest levels and report their findings at the next training.  By discussing the children’s reactions with other educators, they become more proficient at recognizing the effectiveness of their lessons.

When training participants complete pre and post assessments for each child in their classroom, it determines growth in children’s interests relating to science, technology, engineering and math. Teachers also take a survey of their own interests. Results of both the child assessment and the teacher survey show both teacher and student growth over the course of the training.  During the last STEM training, the child assessments showed a 33% increase in child knowledge related to areas such as showing cooperation with others, comprehending and following directions, using technology to perform tasks, demonstrating problem solving, using number and operations concepts, and being able to think symbolically.  Again, these valuable skills are the beginning of lifelong success in both an academic and interpersonal level.

STEM ProjectMonthly STEAM Meetings

After teachers have completed the training, they are invited to attend monthly meeting of the STEM GEMS (Guided Education Mentors for STEM).  The STEM GEMS are committed to spread the importance of early STEM education in our county. They attend local events like the the Coalition sponsored Family Fun Fair and KIDMania, the Indian River Lagoon Science Festival and the Indian River STEAM FEST.  They also present at conferences throughout the state, including the Flagler/Volusia Conference in Port Orange and the One Goal Summer Conference in Tampa.  The STEM GEMS also held their first ever STEM FEST this year in Fort Pierce, a family friendly event with various STEM activities for the children to experience.

  

Here’s a link for STEM GEMS Facebook page with helpful STEM and STEAM activities and events:

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