- Researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts are still developing the curriculum for a new “Seeds of STEM” initiative, but the plan is to introduce the problem-solving process that is basic to science, technology, engineering and math fields in preschool.
- According to eSchool News, WPI is using grant funding to create and test six units that incorporate problem-solving through stories, play and classroom problems.
- To address the lack of diversity in STEM fields and serve students from these underrepresented backgrounds, WPI is partnering with Worcester’s Head Start for development, and a pilot will start in the fall of 2017 in the Montachusett Opportunity Council’s preschools.
The theory behind the Seeds of STEM initiative is that it’s never too late to start fostering the thinking skills children will need to be scientists and engineers. The Next Generation Science Standards include scaffolding that take subjects all the way down to kindergarten. While only a fraction of states have adopted the new science standards, teachers across the country participated in their development, and many are incorporating the new standards into their classrooms.
In addition to preferencing hands-on learning opportunities for students, the NGSS emphasizes a three-dimensional approach to teaching and learning that asks students to connect scientific practices with multidisciplinary concepts and fundamental ideas in the field. As National Science Teachers Association curator of NGSS content Janet Dykstra has said, students should go from “learning about” to “figuring out.” For some teachers, that will require a major shift in their lesson plans, and schools implementing NGSS should focus on high-quality professional development to help them.