STEM in Pre-K Programs
As witnessed during the current pandemic, the world has an ever-increasing reliance on technology. No one knows what the future holds, but given the direction things have been going in the past few decades, technology will likely play an even larger role in day-to-day existence in years to come. Preparing students for future success will require a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
STEM education has become a high priority in the United States. According to multiple studies, the majority of elementary students are not proficient in national STEM expectations (e.g., Griffith & Cahill, 2009; National Center on Education and the Economy, 2006; National Center for Education Statistics, 2011; National Research Council, 2012). Despite increasing workforce needs for STEM-related careers, international comparisons show that the U.S. lags behind other industrialized nations in STEM achievement.
The early childhood years are increasingly recognized as a critical period for introducing STEM concepts. Given the right support, young children are capable of sophisticated reasoning. STEM learning experiences at an early age can foster the development of higher-level cognitive skills and lay the foundation for future learning.
According to the National Research Council, most young children do not realize their potential for math and science as evidenced by achievement gaps. In Texas, students’ scores continually reflect poor content knowledge and limited skill mastery in math and science.
Research shows little effective instructional time in typical pre-K and kindergarten classrooms is devoted to math and science topics (Greenfield, et al., 2009; Nayfeld, Brenneman, & Gelman, 2011; Sackes, Trundle, & Bell, 2013; Tu, 2006). Some estimates are that only 7% to 13% of the school day focuses on science and engineering topics (Connor, Morrison, & Slominski, 2006; Early et al., 2010; La Paro et al., 2009; Tu, 2006).
Despite typical teacher preparation requirements for college-level math and science courses, teachers are not sufficiently prepared for teaching STEM in the classroom. As a solution to this problem, the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) has developed a robust collection of digital STEM instructional resources for early childhood teachers. Working within established state learning guidelines and targeting STEM skill progressions, CLI has developed lessons around skills known to be important for prekindergartners. Our lesson framework is an innovative and feasible approach to addressing significant gaps in STEM learning at their inception.