Early years doesn’t necessarily come to mind for many practitioners and teachers when considering STEAM. However, STEAM is central to children’s learning and development in the 21st century so why not get them started early with the introduction of the STEAM Discovery Centre?
Children are born curious, observing and exploring from an early age. STEAM is about fostering that early sense of awe, wonder, imagination, and creativity. Young children tend to be really inquisitive and interested in finding out about their surroundings and how the world around them works.
Here are 5 activities that will support STEAM learning using the TTS STEAM Discovery Centre:
1. Water play
- Watch children have fun as they explore how water can travel in different ways, for example, flowing across the top of the balance or cascading down the ramp track.
- Investigate changing the flow, speed, course, and direction of the water using different materials such as clear tubing, bricks, or cylinders. These can be threaded through the holes or placed along the balance to create dams that completely block or limit the amount of water allowed to pass.
- Why not add food colouring or soapy bubbles for a different experience?
2. Designing and building ball runs
- Explore and experiment with how objects such as balls, travel along the balance or down the ramp track. Extend by changing the size and weight of the objects, adding or removing obstacles such as cylinders (gradually or completely), or use different materials on the surface of the balance or ramps to investigate concepts such as friction and speed.
- Why not add mark-making to the activity? Children can add obstacles before hypothesising and making predictions on the direction and path they think the ball or object might take. Using chalk markers, they could add arrows to record their thoughts. They can then test their ideas to see if their predictions were correct. If not, can they work out why and fix it?
- Some children might also like to time how long it takes for an object to get from the top of the ramp track to the bottom. They could time the journey by counting or using timing devices such as stopwatches etc. Can they make the journey time longer or shorter? What variables can they change to achieve different outcomes?
- As children experiment with the STEAM Discovery Centre, they will become engineers as they carefully use the resources to position, pivot, manoeuvre, balance and block.
3. Ready, steady…GLOW!
- The STEAM Discovery Centre is made from clear acrylic so lends itself particularly well to being used with glow resources such as glow construction bricks, cylinders, and balls, etc.
- When you thread and stack resources onto the STEAM centre, they add an element of awe and wonder to the play. Light-up resources, when used in a semi-darkened environment, cause the acrylic to take on a different appearance, with the edges shimmering in the light, shadows being cast around the room, and the ordinary becoming the extraordinary.
- For extra effect, why not try layering light by using a light projector, torches or other glow resources? When combined with the clear, acrylic structure of the STEAM Discovery Centre, an atmospheric and engaging environment will emerge, adding a whole new dimension to learning.
4. Getting creative
- Adding loose parts to the play can lead to many different outcomes. By incorporating small world resources or construction and art materials, children can use their imaginations and creativity to weave stories into their play, build mechanisms and machines with the internal workings visible or create artistic installations.
- You can incorporate the STEAM Discovery Centre into your construction area or transform it into an aeroplane where you have to balance the wings to land safely. Design a castle for a story setting or a famous sculpture or building. Children can plan, design, make decisions, select resources, evaluate, and adapt their creations as they go along to improve upon their initial thoughts and ideas.
- What inventions can you dream up or create?
5. Mindful tinkering
- For some children the simple act of tinkering such as posting, threading, and positioning can provide a sense of calm and can be quite captivating.
- These simple actions can encourage mindfulness and can help with focus and attention. You are focused on the moment when you have to think carefully about where to balance and position objects, rather than thinking about anything else.
- The STEAM Discovery Centre can support children to self-regulate and relax, whilst experiencing different STEAM concepts at the same time without even realising it.