The importance of starting STEM learning early  - SmartBrief

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The importance of starting STEM learning early 

If the STEM subjects are top-of-mind by the 4th grade, chances are a child will study those fields with confidence.

3 min read


This post is sponsored by Vex Robotics

As we watch exciting updates from the science world — such as breathtaking images of the iconic Pillars of Creation by the James Webb Telescope or the slow methodical crawl of a Mars rover — it seems these discoveries and developments are primed to share with students. Today educational experts have evidence that even the youngest learners need not be passive admirers of science but hands-on participants. Research shows that preschoolers who participate in robotics challenges not only hone their computational thinking and problem-solving skills, they develop a positive perception of math and science that encourages them to pursue STEM subjects later in life.

A positive attitude and heightened interest in these critical areas of study through creative and exciting hands-on learning opportunities is key. If a student loses their love for learning, it’s an uphill battle to nurture their interest in STEM when they are older. If the STEM subjects are top-of-mind by the fourth grade, chances are a child will study those fields with confidence.

In fact, a 2017 study funded by the nonprofit Joan Ganz Cooney Center, “STEM Starts Early: Grounding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education in Early Childhood,” found that brain and skill-building experiences early in life are critical to child development. Integral to achieving that overall development are high-quality STEM experiences, which can support a young child’s growth across areas as diverse as executive function and even literacy.

Why robots are integral to STEM learning

This is why more schools and educators are looking at VEX GO robots and STEM Lab curricula. In a recent study, “Improving Student Attitudes Toward STEM: Finding from a VEX GO Curriculum,” researchers found that a robotics curriculum improved student attitudes on nearly all STEM subjects for grades three to five. In addition, teachers perceived student growth in areas such as creativity, engagement, teamwork, and persistence.

Developing problem-solving skills is another bonus of this type of interactive learning. The mechanics of building with the VEX GO kits isn’t the sole benefit of incorporating GO into core subjects. Robotics can be viewed as an exciting alternative learning medium to achieving a variety of educational goals. This can apply to many subjects. For example, if a part on a robot broke and the lesson plan objectives dictated that the class group could only repair it with a certain set of available materials, learners not only use their engineering skills to design a replacement option, but develop keen organizational and public speaking skills to build consensus, persuade classmates, and make cases for their designs. 

This kind of empowering success is key to bolstering the excitement necessary to propel students toward STEM subjects, rather than away as they grow older. Early intervention to disrupt apathy toward science and math topics can open pathways toward future careers, a critical need for our society that starts from these early positive experiences. When you have fun and well-designed lessons to share, such as those found organically through robotics, teaching the love of learning through exposure to hands-on interactive STEM activities takes little more than engagement and encouragement for young minds to excel. 

VEX Robotics is the global leader in STEM education, offering the VEX continuum to help students of all abilities find success quickly and also grow their STEM knowledge and competencies. Learn more about how we empower educators to engage and inspire the STEM innovators and problem-solvers of today and tomorrow.