STEM is much more than an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. It is about teaching children inquiry-based learning, so they know how to ask the right questions and how to answer them authentically. We often focus in on one academic area of STEM when teaching, but science, technology, engineering, and math are meant to come together as a whole to encourage higher-level thinking. By providing hands-on experiences with open-ended materials that incorporate STEM components, children become prepared for the world in which they live. They develop the valuable 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity by engaging in exploration and learning how things work. By combining STEM experiences with outdoor learning, children are able to discover, play and explore in a natural environment.
What would you like to build? (Pay special attention to see if children are curious of how to build a structure using the materials provided.)
What can you use to build this creation? (Support children in their imagination and creativity as they explore their curiosities.)
What steps should you take to build the structure? (Encourage children to work together as they determine how to build the structure.)
What happens when you follow those steps? (Assure children that it is okay if their designs do not work at first.)
How can you change the process to create a different outcome? (Trial and error helps children discover what works and leads to strong critical thinking skills.)
What have you learned? (Ask children to share their thoughts.)
Phase 1: Planting a Garden
Building and planting a vegetable garden is great for engineering and design practice. Have children decide where the garden will best be located and use garden tools to start planting the seeds.
Phase 2: Growth & Maintenance
As the plants start to grow, have children feel the textures of different plant leaves, help water plants using the Giant Water Pump, and learn a variety of basic science concepts. They can also count how many plants are starting to grow along with measure how tall the plants are growing.
Phase 3: Harvest
Once the vegetables are ready to harvest, have children count how many vegetables there are in total. Take note of each size and shape along with measuring the total height and length of each plant.