Getting an Early Jump on STEAM Education

By: Tina Shaffer

Education and industry experts agree that the link between early childhood and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is indisputable. Children are natural STEM investigators who are eager to explore, observe and ask questions. And when art, including design and performance, is added to the STEM mix, children are able to explore and express their creativity as well as better visualize STEM concepts. This type of STEAM-based learning can help children develop critical and creative thinking, analysis, reasoning, and design skills and can also enhance later interest in STEM careers.

Destination Imagination (DI) has developed a unique approach to support educational readiness through its STEM & Literacy Pathways for Early Learners and Rising Stars! programs.

Our early learning programs engage children in the following experiences:

  • Being intellectually engaged, absorbed and challenged
  • Engaging in extended interactions (e.g., conversations, discussions, exchanges of views, arguments, participation in planning of work)
  • Conducting sustained investigations of aspects of their own environment and experiences worthy of their interest, knowledge and understanding
  • Taking initiative in a range of activities and accepting responsibility for what is accomplished
  • Experiencing the satisfaction that can come from overcoming obstacles and setbacks and solving problems
  • Having confidence in their own intellectual powers and their own questions
  • Helping others to discover things and to understand them better
  • Making suggestions to others and expressing appreciation of others’ efforts and accomplishments
  • Applying their developing basic oral language, literacy, mathematical, scientific, technology and engineering skills in purposeful ways
  • Feeling that they belong to a group of their peers
STEM & Literacy Pathways for Early Learners

STEM & Literacy Pathways for Early Learners is aligned with Common Core Standards and is designed to assist teachers and parents in teaching STEM and literacy concepts to 3- to 6-year-olds, while promoting critical and creative thinking skills. These skills, combined with DI’s unique and proven style, aim to increase social, emotional and educational outcomes for participants. As with all DI programs, Pathways teaches the creative process from imagination to innovation through a project-based system of learning that helps even the youngest students deal with new material or equipment.

Rising Stars! for Early Learners Challenge

Each year, volunteer educators and industry experts develop a new Rising Stars! for Early Learners Challenge. They focus on creating play-based curricula that allows kids to be creative, learn simple building and construction, become comfortable working in teams, and learn how to speak in front of an audience. Most Rising Stars! teams assemble toward the beginning of the school year and develop their Challenge solutions over a long period of time (typically 3-5 months). The Challenge is noncompetitive, which helps ease pressure and lets kids play and experiment with their solutions. Our Rising Stars! Challenge can easily be started or incorporated into school, daycare or other programs.

Team registration for the 2015-16 Rising Stars! Challenge begins on July 20, 2015.

For more information on Destination Imagination’s programming for early learners, click here.