Riverdale Country School in New York City is the most expensive preschool in the country, and it is no coincidence that it offers a hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum. Preschoolers have classes in counting, geometric shapes, and seasonal changes. By 2nd grade they explore the scientific method, magnets, simple machines, and even the origins of the universe. By middle school, students are heavily into earth and environmental science and learn math as a form of reasoning.
What Is STEM?
The wisdom of this approach is that it teaches preschoolers to look at the world around them with enjoyment and curiosity. STEM gives kids the tools they need to understand the world and reason through problems. As the adage goes, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he has food forever.”
The 21st century tools (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, citizenship and courage) provided by STEM get to the underlying functionality of today’s world. Science and technology encompasses the use of smartphones, tablets, and computers, along with a wealth of other devices, while science explains how things work. Engineering gives curious minds the tools needed to bring ideas to life. Mathematics is a basic building block that helps adults balance a checkbook, evaluate financial problems, get the best bargain, file taxes, and more.
With all the job growth available in STEM-related fields, it is no surprise that it has quickly become a watchword for the modern educator. Destination Imagination rises to the challenge by reframing traditional education and curricula to accommodate a more analytical focus and project based learning. They work to prepare students for the careers of today and the new career opportunities of tomorrow.
Building a Day Around STEM
STEM learning can and should be adapted into daily life. The addition of a few vocabulary words might be all it takes to adjust the learning focus. Instead of asking a child how or why, encourage her to design and experiment. This simple change can reap dramatic rewards. It will help a child learn to attempt solutions and become solution oriented.
Destination Imagination uses a 5-step process to guide learners from idea to finished product. The free flowing style used allows those children who learn by doing to dive into a project, while students who use a planning model have the opportunity to think through a solution before implementing it. In either case, students gain the benefits of each step of the Destination Imagination process.
The STEM approach also embraces the idea that the arts are an often overlooked foundation for critical thinking. Getting involved in the community and encouraging learners to take risks in a safe environment helps keep their curiosity active and maintain their engagement.