Students’ perception is one of the most important nuances in primary school. Perception occurs with the activity of developing students. The task and the environment need to be expanded and developed along with the information they obtain. It is recommended that the STEM method, which has been popular in recent years, be taught at an early age. It is necessary to make innovations that will have added value. Therefore, the STEM method should be fully introduced.
Keywords: elementary school, STEM, STEM method
STEM is derived from the abbreviation of the capital letters of the words Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Gonzalez and Cuenzi 2012). The concept of STEM was first introduced by Dr. Judith Rahmaley in 2001. In recent years, many articles, brochures, and reports have been written on STEM in Azerbaijan. However, the target group of studies is for the most part high school children but rarely primary school children. However, during primary education, children begin to acquire many concepts, including science, technology, mathematics and engineering. When teaching these concepts to children, there is a need for specific activities and environments that could enable them to implement new concepts by combining existing ones and constructing them themselves. It is also important to ensure that children learn science by combining STEM areas with the demands of their age group.
Why is STEM important in primary schools?
Science, technology, engineering, and maths may seem like imaginary fields to elementary school children, but in reality, elementary school students spontaneously engage in STEM activities in the classroom, on the playground, at home, in the market, etc. Young children are actually STEM researchers who want to explore and invent. “How can I distribute this nut evenly on a cake? Can I really build a skyscraper out of blocks? How can this log float in a lake? It’s not heavy?” With questions like these, young children are actually STEM researchers who want to discover and invent technology. Walking with smartphones and tablets, they constantly ask questions to learn something new. Only when these natural interests and desires of children are supported and directed can their learning be meaningful and lasting. At this point, teachers and families can make small interventions in STEM areas (science, technology). If children are given a chance to explore the world and are given every day a rich opportunity to solve problems and use their own independent decisions – so-called 21st-century skills – STEM education can be developed. Skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving can also be developed. Children can develop engineering and math skills while building bridges, ramps, and blockhouses, add a technological component by searching for them on a computer, and develop scientific process skills while observing gardening tools such as plants, animals, outdoor nature, garden straw, shovels and handcarts can make and experience a broader STEM experience. This work naturally supports the conceptual development of children. According to Akmana (1995), concepts are closely related to mental and language development, and children’s conceptual development develops in four stages: grouping, generalisation, classification, and conceptual learning. From the moment they are born, children begin to explore and differentiate their surroundings. According to Piaget, play is important in children’s conceptual learning, and manipulating objects during play significantly contributes to their conceptual development. In the first few years, the number of concepts that children learn rapidly increases, and during this time, games, play materials, and interactions as well as feedback with other children have a positive effect on children’s conceptual development. There are three important components to helping primary school children acquire STEM skills. These are a well-designed educational program, teacher training and family. If a curriculum is developed and taught to primary school children, which includes activities in line with the STEM approach, children can be effectively introduced to the STEM approach and their STEM skills can be developed. In order to introduce children to science, it is necessary to start their education from the first years with a program appropriate to their level (Kumtepe, Kaya & Kumtepe, 2009) and this program not only supports children’s acquisition of scientific knowledge, but also children’s beliefs and interests in science (Mantzicopoulos, Patrick, & Samarapungavan, 2008; Lind, 1998). STEM tasks given to children openly and clearly develop many of their skills.
Picture provided by the author, attribution CC-By
Guler Bayramova is a Scientix Ambassador from Azerbaijan. She is a teacher at Z. Aliyeva Secondary School #7, Jalilabad, Azerbaijan. She is also an MIE Expert.