Integrating STEM Learning into Learning Centers

Enhancing the Focus on STEM in Learning Centers

With the increased focus on STEM at all levels of education, it's imperative that you find different ways to incorporate STEM into your classroom, especially in learning centers. "When you enhance the focus on STEM learning, you will allow young children to exercise their curiosity by investigating different ideas and activities during play. The learning environment should center around encouraging children to consider their questions, what they want to know, and how they can find out," write the authors of STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers. Here are a few examples they share of STEM learning in various centers:

Examples of STEM Learning in the Art Center

  • Experimenting – Asking what happens if you mix red and blue paint.
  • Investigating – Looking at the different textures you can make with crayons.
  • Physical Science – Wondering if a clay animal will stand up on four feet.
  • Problem Solving – Deciding whether to use a staple or glue or tape to connect an object you're creating.
  • Creativity Programs – Recording your ideas using apps such as Starry Night for art and Story Kit for literature.
  • Brainteaser Programs – Developing your logical thinking and spatial perception by using apps such as OverColor, which challenges you to copy colorful patterns using geometric shapes.
  • Constructing – Exploring how to construct a 3-D structure of a butterfly using recycled materials.
  • Designing and Building – Figuring out how to make a boat out of water bottles.
  • Counting – Finding out how many items it will take to fill a space.
  • Geometry – Exploring what shapes you can use to make a cat.
  • Measurement – Figuring out how long the line should go in a picture.
  • Patterns – Creating a design with a pattern of red, blue, and green beads.

Examples of STEM Learning in the Block Center

  • Comparison – Examining if your building is large enough for a toy car.
  • Experimenting – Wondering if the castle will stand when you roll a ball against it, then finding out.
  • Problem Solving – Figuring out how to make a road to get the toy trucks to the store that your classmate built.
  • Physical Science – Examining if a bridge will stay up if you build it across two towers.
  • Programs for Building – Practicing how you can move, stack, and line up parts to build structures.
  • Devices – Recording your ideas by taking photos and videos, and making audio recordings.
  • Building – Creating a racetrack for the toy vehicles.
  • Designing – Planning how to build a home for a toy giraffe.
  • Constructing – Exploring construction with simple machines, such as ramps and levers.
  • Counting – Figuring out how many blocks long your racetrack is.
  • Geometry – Building your whole house out of triangle-shaped bricks and noticing that triangles have three sides.
  • Measurement – Determining that your building is four hands tall.

Examples of STEM Learning in the Dramatic Play Center

  • Noticing Detail – Observing and describing everyday objects to investigate properties of objects using all their senses.
  • Comparison – Using certain science tools, such as magnifiers or balance scales.
  • Problem Solving – Having the teacher pose a problem or set up a challenge so the children can develop a plan to solve the problem.
  • Devices – Providing opportunities to use digital cameras can inspire curiosity and wonder.
  • Analyzing – Using simple machines, such as ice cream churns and egg timers, to invite hands-on explorations of how machines function.
  • Counting – Counting out change in a restaurant.
  • Learning One-to-One Correspondence – Setting up a table in the housekeeping area with plates, forks, spoons, and so on for each place setting.
  • Comparison and Sorting – Gathering objects to compare and sorting them in the dramatic play area.

For more examples of STEM learning and activities you can do in other centers, read STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers. For information about setting up your early learning centers and the types of materials to consider including in them, check out the Classroom Setup category of our Learning Center