STEM FOR 4 YEAR OLDS
On April 20, 2019 at 11 AM at Playa Vista Library, I spoke with a group of 15 individuals. The group was composed of 2/3 children and 1/3 parents. I was very excited by the little faces ranging from 2-8 years old. The goals for my presentation were two-fold including:
I read my book aloud and had the children come up to the front of the semi-circle where I was sitting and use the puppets I have to represent the different animals within the book. The owl, raccoon and bat puppets are examples of animals from page 4, all are nocturnal or masters at being active at night. After the reading I had the children do activities with stamps and stickers representing the different animals and their specialties. I also had biological samples of feathers, an Emu egg, shells, beetles, snake skin, different bones from mammals…. One of the children asked me the funniest question, “What do you do for a living and where do you live?” That was an appropriate question for a city kid to ask. I told him that I study and teach science and have collected sample specimens of different organisms all my life. The live animals I had for the children included my pets: Sedona, a Leopard Gecko and Yin and Yang, my two Firebelly Toads.
For the parents I provided a small binder of articles about STEM Early Childhood Education and Next Generation of Science Standards. I gave a mini-lecture on how to bring STEM into their home and how to engage in STEM conversation around clouds, movement and distance while driving in the car.
I felt really great about the program. I plan to continue to reach out to local librarians to get on their calendar of events so as to encourage my community to increase the amount of time that is spent on STEM Education.
KINDERGARTEN LESSONS AIN’T WHAT THEY USE TO BE
Finger painting and building blocks were the staples of Baby Boomer’s kindergarten classrooms across the US throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. But if you visit a kindergarten classroom in Los Angeles, New York, Miami or Chicago in 2016, you will find a much different environment, pedagogy and curriculum for our current 5-6 year old children. Teachers can tell their Generation Z students, “this is NOT your grandparent’s kindergarten” as they hand out Apple iPads and deliver their science lesson using a 5-E lesson plan format.
All lesson plans start with the lesson’s objectives. Each objective begins with a SWBAT –students will be able to. Please take 1 minutes to watch this video about SWBAT: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/making-lesson-objectives-clear.
Phase I of the 5-E lesson plan. At the beginning of the lesson the teacher will supply an initial question or set of clues for students. These questions are designed to engage (first E) the students. The goal of the engagement phase is to capture the students’ interest and stimulate the content knowledge developed during previous lessons (prior knowledge). Many schools use a buzz phrase for the beginning of the science lesson such as “bell work” or “a do now”. This phase may include a graphic organizer including a KWL Chart (What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I Learned). The engagement may also be a video. If the lesson is about physics, the teacher could show a short video of a race car skidding to a halt and then have the students discuss the speed of the race car and the length of the skid marks. This phase should be a peek into the content that will be delivered during the rest of the lesson.
Howard Gardener’s definition of intelligence uses 3 primary and overarching categories:
The next two phases of the 5 E Lesson Plan are Explore and Explain. During these two phases, students will be asked to use and expand their intelligence to identify and develop concepts, processes and skills. During the 2nd E (Explore) Phase students are required to actively explore their environments and manipulate materials. They will then connect the dots from Exploring to learning the lesson plans concepts. The teacher will give the students different opportunities to verbalize the lesson’s concepts and demonstrate the new behaviors and skills. Teachers will often rely on different methods to help students retain the information such as word charts, think-pair-share or graphic organizers. The 3rd E (Explain) Phase should include intentional play which will allow children to develop self-regulatory skills, supports communication and fosters collaborative learning.
The 5-E Lesson Plan uses a constructivist approach. Constructivism is a learning strategy that was developed by Jean Piaget and become popular during the 1960s. The constructivist method or approach allows students to synthesize new understanding from prior knowledge and helps students build on the past to develop new information.
The first 3 phases of the 5-E Lesson Plan (Engage, Explore, and Explain) prepare the students for phase 4 – Elaborate. In this stage of the 5 E’s students will expand their conceptual understanding of the content of the lesson. They should develop a deeper understanding of the information. The methods used to provide the avenues for delving deeper should include allowing the students to practice skills and behaviors.
Practicing skills should involve collaborative learning and problem-solving. Collaborative learning is supported by the Theory of Social Constructivism. This theory which is attributed to Lev Vygotsky (1978), emphasizes the importance of the collaborative nature of learning and that all cognitive functions are believed to originate in and are explained as products of social interactions. Students should be encouraged to engage in open-ended discussions with peers and teachers about such things as meaning of terms and procedures, relationship among ideas, and the applications of knowledge to specific contexts (Snowman & McCown, 2013). Problem-based learning (PBL) provides the opportunities for interacting with the content material that emphasize critical thinking skills and not just listening to a lecture. Research has shown that PBL allows students to form a better conceptual understanding and transfer their learning to other situations (Yadav, Lundeberg, Bunting & Subedi, 2011).
Evaluate is the last phase of the 5-E Lesson Plan. This phase encourages students to assess their understanding and abilities. Students are asked to recognize the key concepts of the lesson and show what skills they developed as part of the lesson. The evaluation should include feedback on the student’s strength and needs.
Each 5-E lesson that a teacher delivers is an opportunity to have the students transform to a higher level. The changes to the students include improved overall achievement toward mastery of the content and increased skills development.