You hear a lot of talk about STEM education and about STEAM, I’m personally glad they added the A for arts because art is a great learning tool but neither of those are appropriate for early childhood for a couple of reasons.
First, children are natural scientist, engineer’s, artist and inventors, all we need to do is give them the freedom to do so. So STEAM in early childhood should be naturally happening.
Second, what is needed most in early childhood is relationships.
Here at Birdsall House we let the STEAM happen naturally and we add the R to make STREAM through consistency in staffing and fostering respectful relationships from infancy on.
By modeling caring respectful interactions we teach the children how to have caring respectful interactions, themselves.
I remember watching one of our students who was three at the time playing with a one year old. She was using a blanket to cover and uncover the one year old and each time she would stop and say “did you like that? Do you want me to do that again?” which was met with a giggle indicating “yes”.
Not only are the relationships between the children important but also the relationship between child and staff really matter. When children feel safe with and loved by their caregiver, they feel free to experiment and explore, which leads to learning.
There is one negative to building these strong relationship though, the same feelings of safety and love that allow an infants to explore, also allow a toddler to push push push the limits. But we are ok with that, we know it’s their way of learning what is expectable and we feel honored that they trust us enough for them to push the limits, knowing they will always be kept safe and loved.