Early Childhood Education, Block Play and STEM Education - Head Start and Brackitz

In his State of the Union address  President Obama announced a commitment to early childhood education and specifically noted  STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) as areas to focus on. Many education specialists report that early childhood education is critical to laying the groundwork for later years. 


This does not mean pushing 5 year old kids to do multiplication. What it does mean is providing a learning environment where play and fun are paired with learning by doing. It could be called smart play. Things as simple as roaming the neighborhood to see where you can find letters--trees, cracks in the sidewalks and so on. The list is long, but also requires a teacher as guide. Many children get this already. Many do not because of family circumstances and available resources. It is these prep-skills that are needed to be prepared for elementary school.

This brings us to Head Start. Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.BRACKITZ  has had the wonderful experience of bringing the fun and joy of building to Head Start classrooms in Salt Lake City. The teachers and administrators do a fabulous job to bring early childhood education to kids in an effort to prepare them for elementary school. One part of this relationship has been to orient teachers to the benefits of playing and learning with BRACKITZ.

Watch a Video of a Head Start Classroom

 

About 1 week ago we spent several hours orienting over 100 teachers on how to discover math and physical concepts through building and play. While introducing vocabulary like line (or vertex), point, angle, length, area, shape and so on kids can create these concepts themselves. The pride in building a triangle, then a square on up to a 17-a-gon (17 sided polygon) (heptdecagon) that covers the floor of their classroom is immense. From there a teacher might move to 3D shapes and talk about shapes that "contain" things and shapes that are flat or 2D. Or perhaps talk about circles because a 17-a-gon looks a lot like a circle. Then maybe depart to talk about Archimedes and his approximation of a circle before Pi or his discovery of density. Of course, just letting kids create and build and learn how to support their own structures is a big part of things too! The possibilities are limitless.

One might ask, what is the use of knowing the word vertex when you are 5. The answer is not found in the 5 year old remembering what a vertex is (although some will for sure) but the fact that they can be exposed to complicated words in subjects called science, math and engineering. We can even use those words! Then, when these bright young kids show up for 5th grade the topics are not foreign and scary. Instead the concepts are somehow familiar and the child can lean back and know they are ready for what comes next. The alternative is that they turn away.

Happy Building!