The Wudinna RSL Memorial Kindergarten and Ceduna’s Ngura Yadurirn Child & Family Centre have been at the forefront of enhancing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning in young children.
The preschool’s were two of 20 which participated in a Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) preschool inquiry project, attending a STEM expo in Adelaide last month.
Both were selected to participate in the project from a large number of applicants from across the state.
DECD has a strategic plan to have STEM taught in all schools and preschools by 2020, with a strong belief that STEM opportunities will transform learning and prepare students to be innovative problem solvers in the 21st century.
Wudinna Kindergarten director Beck Sampson said kindergarten was a space for organic development of STEM learning, with their creek play an example of that.
“We see children experimenting, the science aspect, in our creek with water, then they use tools, the technology, to collect and transport the water,” she said.
“Children use pipes to engineer waterways and solve problems such as how to shift water without it going down the creek and also use mathematics to measure lengths of pipe and capacity.”
Being part of the project has allowed these kindergartens to investigate their STEM understandings to make permanent changes to their teaching practice and both sites have developed their own line of inquiry and sought to answer that question.
“For me, being part of this project has grown my understanding of STEM and the learning that occurs in STEM play,” Ms Sampson said.
“As a staff team we learnt how to capture, question and extend STEM play in order to stretch children’s thinking and their problem solving skills.”
Ngura Yadurirn director Susie Bowden said children can flourish in these environments.
“We know that when educators design challenging environments and observe, wait and really listen to children, the children will have increased opportunities to share their ideas.”
Participants presented their projects in spotlight sessions at the expo – which was attended by about 120 educators – and also shared their learning in a stall.
Both Ms Sampson and Ms Bowden agreed that their inquiry into STEM learning has only just started.
“I actually feel I have more questions and learning to go on with now that the project has finished,” Ms Sampson said.
“Educators also play an important role in STEM as they must question and extend understandings of the children.”
The Wudinna kindergarten will now move on to investigating the types of critical and creative thinking that STEM play encourages.
Ms Bowden said their team would now investigate what STEM looks like for the Aboriginal community and how to incorporate this into their programming and planning.
Both said that when teachers see themselves as learners too, they could be more reflective about their practice and provide better learning opportunities for children.