Educators say if we want to cultivate the next generation of engineers, we can't wait until middle school to introduce STEM curriculum. Children can learn basic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts in pre-school!
A great example is the Ramps and Pathways curriculum designed by a group of Iowa teachers working with the Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education at UNI. It began when a teacher noticed that children at her school were playing with pea gravel during recess, sliding it down a slide. The teacher brought rain gutter sections to the playground and the children began elevating one end to watch the pea gravel slide to the other end. This simple activity inspired teachers to start exploring physics with their students by using marbles and inclined ramps made out of the cove molding used in home construction.
"At first, people might look at this and say, 'well this is just play, they're just messing around,' because it doesn't look like school. I think sometimes we're confined by our traditional beliefs of school. These children are developing all sorts of understanding about spatial thinking." - Beth Van Meeteren, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at UNI and co-director of the Regents' Center for Early Development Education
The Ramps and Pathways curriculum was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation and is now widely used in Waterloo preschools, as well as in schools in Alabama, Alaska, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, California, Idaho, Texas and Utah. Van Meeteren says it fills a significant void in most children's education.
"We have lots of literacy and math in the primary classrooms, and we sometimes have science, but we seem to gloss over engineering and technology." Many teachers have even seen the effects of the curriculum spilling over into other academic domains such as literacy; when students make a mistake in reading or writing, they have the ability to look more closely, figure out what's going on and "repair" the error.
YouTube video of Ramps and Pathways in action.
News & Events
UNI will host the Quest to Unravel Alzheimer's Scavenger Hunt (QUASH) on Friday, April 25, in the West Gym. QUASH raises money for the Alzheimer's Association and raises awareness about Alzheimer's disease.