Wee engineers are planting STEM roots

June 09, 2017 06:19 PM

MECHANICVILLE – A teacher is offering a jump-start on STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering & Math – to preschoolers at the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center.

"I think with the push for STEM that it begins at the preschool level," says teacher Mary Hogan, adding "looking at things a little bit differently and asking the right questions to get them to think more critically is important."
Hogan, the owner of Educational Enrichment Programs, was recently selected by the Museum of Science in Boston to pilot its new “Wee Engineers" curriculum.

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She teaches a morning preschool program for 3-and-4 year-olds. "Wee Engineers" is developmentally appropriate for children ages 3-5, and capitalizes on children's creativity and innate desire to work with their hands, Hogan said.

"Through being in this community at the preschool level, I've found that their middle school doesn't even have a science fair, they're just really starting some STEM programs at the high school level," Hogan said. "I feel if we can start at the early childhood level then we end up kind of fostering that love of STEM, Science Technology Engineering and Math and can maybe carry it through."

She’ll ask questions like: "How can you build your tower taller? What parts of it are working and what is not working? Where did it fall apart? Why do you think it fell apart?"

The kids will answer but may not even know it’s STEM-related. "We'll read the Three Billy Goats Gruff and then we will build a bridge to get them across a river."

A lot of it getting the kids to think about solutions to problems, how to solve it, and then how to create a solution that might work. It uses materials they use naturally – blocks and string and toys – and getting the kids to think about it in a different way, Hogan said. She uses Emmett the Bear, a hand puppet, to pose problems, questions and answers.

"We don't think anything about teaching them letters and numbers and all of those things at this age," Hogan said. "Why not introduce those elementary science skills that will just help to build upon everything they're doing in elementary. So I think if we can start it at this age and continue to build upon that and scaffold their learning throughout that they will demand better programs at the elementary level, at the middle school level and again the high school level."

Currently, she is leading the “Rafts and Wrecking Balls" lessons whether that means getting over a river or knocking down buildings.

"The one's that will absorb it, the others that don't can't help but benefit from the exposure."


WNYT Staff

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