By Dr. Win Win, Dr. PLAY
Dr. Win Win first encountered STEM at the Early Childhood Education Center at University of Northern Iowa in the United States in 2010. At that time, President Obama invested a significant amount of funding in STEM education to cultivate STEM teachers. The professor of the Early Childhood Education Department shared with us that because university students at that time chose their subjects based on whether they could make money after graduation, the subject of science was often neglected. Therefore, they realized the need to provide young children with firsthand experiences of STEM during the kindergarten years.
1. In 2011, Dr. PLAY introduced the concept of STEM in Hong Kong and invited professors from the Early Childhood Education Center at University of Northern Iowa to hold seminars for local kindergarten and primary school teachers and principals. In the same year, a STEM summer camp was launched, taking place over five days. In 2013, the preschool STEM program was introduced, and in 2019, STEM was incorporated into the kindergarten curriculum. Students now engage in STEM through play on a weekly basis, increasing their understanding of STEM.
2. According to the article "Starting STEM Education from Early Childhood - Experiences in Kindergarten Theme Curricula," the theme exploration curriculum implemented in kindergartens for children aged two to five is filled with the spirit and elements of STEM. Children demonstrate amazing abilities through activities such as building with blocks and rolling ball tracks, which fully embody engineering design thinking and the application of mathematics, science, and technology. During our implementation of STEM in schools, by simply observing the children for a little bit of time, we often see them come up with unique approaches. Rather than demonstrating, we use questioning and hypothesis to pique their interest and allow them to construct freely.
3. The selection of teaching materials needs to be open-ended and diverse. Open-ended toys refer to toys that have more than one way to play with them, allowing for flexible play. Construction toys, such as building blocks and large-scale soft construction toys, are examples of open-ended toys. Preschoolers can create different combinations and engage in various ways of play within these toys. Initially, preschoolers may feel overwhelmed when faced with open-ended toys, but with the guidance of adults, they learn construction techniques through observation. Through trial and error, they organize their own way of constructing.
4. Engage children in activities that stimulate curiosity and exploration. Preschoolers possess an innate curiosity and explore and understand the world through their five senses: touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing. According to McClure (2017), under the impetus of curiosity and with the assistance of adults, preschoolers naturally engage in STEM learning by interacting with their surrounding environment. Throughout the process, they develop exploratory abilities such as observation, hypothesis, and verification, fostering a habit of inquiry. If preschoolers enjoy exploring and applying their inquiry skills, it becomes easier for them to open the door to knowledge. During our STEM activities, we often ask guiding questions to the children without providing specific answers, encouraging them to think and explore on their own. They will feel excited and build confidence through their own efforts.
*周淑惠（ 2017 ） STEM教育自由幼開始-幼兒園主題探究課程中的經驗。台灣教育評論月刊，6（9）， 169至176。
**McClure, E.(2017). More than a foundation: Young children are cap table STEM learners. Young Children, November, 83-89.