Child development professors prepare children for STEAM

CN/ Steven Adamo

By Steven Adamo

Two East Los Angeles College Child Development professors are preparing Science, Technology, Science, Arts and Mathematics workshops aimed at interactive learning experiences for children.

The workshops are meant to educate future teachers on the importance of exposing STEAM vocabulary to children early on.

“Here at the center, we develop that foundation for learning—especially if we’re incorporating a lot of STEAM,” Nancy Duran from the ELAC Child Development Center said.

When interacting with the children at the center, Duran uses words associated with STEAM.

“When building with blocks, there’s the engineering aspect,” Duran said. If Duran sees a child playing with blocks, she will say things like “Oh, you’re being an engineer— I see how you’re stacking.”

Not being afraid to use the terminology with the child, Duran said, helps develop confidence with the subjects later in life.

Children at the center use the outdoor play area to observe lizards, squirrels and sometimes snails.

“That’s why we named it backyard life sciences because of the importance of just walking to your backyard, walking outdoors— exposing children to life sciences,” Duran said.

The outdoor play area at the center is in the early stages of being remodeled to further include STEAM projects.

From toddlers to kindergarteners, all were involved in the process of designing their ideal backyard play area. They were shown a series of photographs with different play areas and compiled them into booklets showing their ideal play area.

According to Duran, including art into STEM is a way for children to connect with the sciences and personalize it. Some examples Duran mentioned include making a collage of themselves with leaves and observing garden snails.

“Feeling it, touching it, learning about the shell and sketching it out,” Duran said. Children are encouraged to share their observations on how the snail moves over various surfaces.

“Both of us teach creative experiences for young children, so we include a lot of visual arts and music, drama and other components,” said Rokeya Rahman, Assistant professor for the Child Family and Education Department. “Any innovation has to have a creative component to it.”

Rokeya and Duran worked together for three months developing the workshop. Out of 225 applicants, this program was accepted to be presented at this year’s annual California Association for the Education of Young Children conference and expo.

The conference allows educators to network and exchange ideas on what works in the classroom, though Duran would like to work with other departments on campus that fit into STEAM curriculum.

Rahman said they’re teaching future pre-school teachers on how to include STEAM into the curriculum classroom activities. Last year, a test-run of the workshop took place on campus.

According to both Duran and Rahman, the goal is to create a learning environment that focuses on life sciences, but can be accessible anywhere— like a back yard.

The next step for Duran and Rahman is to seek training and resources to implement STEAM into the classrooms, Child Development Center and future workshops. “It’s part of community building, which is important as well,” Duran said.

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