Children in elementary school, defined as grades K-5, grow enormously both physically and mentally over these years and the differences between a child in kindergarten and a fifth grade student are dramatic. In order to more clearly serve the needs of these students, educators and parents, the National STEM Honor SocietyTM has segmented elementary school into grades K-2 and grades 3-5.
Elementary School K to 2, is about inspiring young students to embrace STEM experiences, to open eyes and minds.
Here, there are no GPA or STEM classroom hour requirements. The required project-based enrichment activities encourage students to be naturally inquisitive about their world through hands-on experiences that engage the five senses, growing curiosity, triggering the joy of learning.
The “NSTEM from the Start” journey, even at this young age, helps students visualize how science, technology, engineering and math can be fun and exciting. It is amazing how some young students can develop lifelong inspiration and direction from experiences at this influential age.
The National STEM Honor Society believes that STEM is an exciting journey through all grade levels, that starts early and lasts a lifetime… From K to Career.
The K-2 Students
These students are naturally curious about their world and learn best through direct discovery in hands-on experiences with manipulatives that engage the five senses. They are developing the ability to approach their discoveries logically, increasing their ability to utilize abstract reasoning.
Project based learning enrichment is a powerful engine to expose students to exciting and fun experiences, holding the child’s attention and enhancing retention at a high level for extended periods of time.
Just as with any physical or intellectual pursuit, starting early with a focus on STEM creates enthusiastic interest and a feeder program for later grades with dramatically improved outcomes on the Journey Through the Grades.
The K-2 Educator
Encouragement and inspiration are essential for young students to develop a passion for STEM subjects. Importantly, building a story, integrating it into the project based learning creates a continuing interest for these young minds.
Not all K-2 teachers are trained in STEM subjects so it is critical that every K-2 teacher has access to training to gain confidence in creating excitement about teaching STEM subjects. Professional development, where teachers are doing the learning is of paramount importance to help the K-2 educator make STEM part of daily life for their students. This is where the teacher builds stories, giving students a meaningful purpose to hang on to, making thinkers and creators and not just information consumers.
The goal is to bring robust STEM education experiences to their students by integrating STEM education into subjects familiar to the educator such as having the students write about STEM subjects! Connecting writing and other disciplines to STEM helps to organize the educational plate integrating everything possible with STEM. Creating multiple entry points as connections to other disciplines, gives students a narrative and context for learning that begins the process of teaching these students how to solve problems.
The K-2 Parent
The key here is to encourage parents and guardians to be actively involved with their child’s exciting STEM journey at the earliest age possible, which helps build an activated community of parents, educators and students. Parents model fun and curiosity by participating in enrichment activities which optimize engagement, promote intrinsic motivation, stimulate a growth mindset, and drive meaningful learning.