The nation’s economy is moving towards technologically based industries and therefore creating a growth in the need for people experienced in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). This begs the question; how early should we be introducing STEM into childhood to cultivate a generation of adults prepared to succeed in their economy? Although there is no exact answer, research from various institutions suggest that introducing these topics at an early age help develop a strong foundation in STEM. From birth to age 5, have been accepted as the most critical point in brain development. Studies by the National Science Teachers Association show that young children learn through active exploration—and the drive to observe, interact, discover, and explore. All these traits are crucial for the advancement in STEM since they are the most fundamental aspects.
Encouraging children’s desire to explore and learn at an early age sets them on a path of curiosity of the unknown that will follow them throughout their adult lives. In 2007, a Carnegie Foundation commission of distinguished researchers and public and private leaders conclude that a sustained, vibrant democracy is dependent upon this foundation in STEM.
The desire to explore, interact, and observe begins long before elementary and middle school therefore, the best way to start introducing STEM is by taking these early learners outside and letting them explore their surroundings, taking them to organized workshops, and letting them engage in conversation about what they are exploring. By asking questions, we can help inspire investigations where students are identifying objects, making predictions, testing ideas, and sharing discoveries all while having a good time.
Introducing STEM at an early age not only helps build skills in these fields but research has shown it also improves abilities in other areas such as, literacy, critical thinking, language, working memory, cognitive thinking, and inhibitory control. The main goal for teaching STEM at an early age is to prepare children for adulthood and give them the necessary skills to flourish in a growing economy.