STEM may be one of the buzziest terms in education and it’s no mystery why. From the cell phone you use to check the weather in the morning to the computer models meteorologists use to make those predictions, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) innovations shape our everyday lives and will undoubtably shape our future. STEM discoveries can help us solve complicated challenges in creative new ways and give us the opportunity to create a better world for everyone. Additionally, STEM jobs will continue to be a major force in our economy. According to the Pew Research Center, employment in STEM occupations has outpaced overall U.S. job growth since 1990. So how can we help children step into this big opportunity? By making STEM learning playful and fun, of course!
Early STEM education lets kids cultivate their curiosity and explore the world around them while building up the skills they need to succeed in the future. Our STEM workshops align with Georgia learning standards and get students hands-on with different STEM experiments in a low-risk environment that encourages creative problem solving, embracing “mistakes” as a central part of the learning process and having fun. A regular field trip consists of 15-minute rotations around each of the learning spaces of the museum. Add a STEM workshop and you’ve got a field trip + a science experiment! Classes gather in the Discovery and Exploration rooms to learn about a STEM related topic and then they get to put on the lab coats (metaphorically, budgets are budgets) and conduct their own experiment!
To support STEM learning at different ages and in different fields, CMA offers four distinct STEM workshops. The Gloopy Glop Workshop designed for Pre-K through 2nd grade, focuses on chemistry and students learn about matter, atoms and molecules, solutions, chemicals and chemical reactions as they make slime. Our Math in 3D: Fun with Shapes & Tangrams Workshop, great for Pre-K through 1st grade, lets young students get hands on with geometry and spatial relationships as they experiment with tangrams to make different designs. Designed for Kindergarten through 3rd grade, our Launch & Learn! Build Your Own Machine Workshop brings kids up close and personal with engineering simple machines as they experiment with a life-sized lever and wheel and axel and work to create their own catapults. Last (but certainly not least!) our Cool Kids Code! Workshop teaches 1st through 3rd grade students about technology and computers, sequenced instructions, computer memory, working in teams and coding as they help a small robot mouse find its cheese. At the end of each field trip, students have something tangible to take home with them to reinforce the concepts they learned, whether that be a class 3 lever (catapult that shoots little pieces of paper), or a combination of polyvinyl acetate, sodium tetraborate decahydrate and dihydrogen monoxide, aka slime!
Over 3,100 students have experienced a STEM workshop at Children’s Museum of Atlanta this school year. These field trips have been a hit among educators and students alike! One Kindergarten teacher from Edward L. Bouie, Sr. Elementary School said, “my students loved the entire STEM experience which was hands-on and reinforced all the concepts and standards we have covered in class! Fantastic!” Doug, one of our incredible GX Guides who leads field trips and STEM workshops, shared that he enjoys working with a group of students to learn something new.
“Learning through play on the Museum floor is wonderful. Everybody gravitates towards something different and everybody gets something different out of their time at CMA. But during the STEM portion, we all come back together to learn something as a group. The energy is very different, feeling a new concept course around the room, lighting up little lightbulbs and hearing giggles as we all learn something new with all our friends.”
Doug also described the value of STEM education beautifully:
“Ideally CMA would have an exhibit about everything, because it would be amazing to teach the kids all the knowledge about the whole world. But STEM undergirds so much of modern life. It’s everywhere, the 1s and 0s of the matrix. Having a firm grasp on STEM concepts makes it so much easier to learn about other things. Not to mention the cognitive habits STEM inculcates: perseverance, curiosity, evidence-based reasoning, the excitement of being wrong because it means you’re about to learn something new. It’s the best! The younger we can get kids in the habit of acquiring these crucial skills, the better prepared they’ll be to take their beautiful minds out into the world to solve the problems that need solving.”
To learn more about Children’s Museum of Atlanta’s STEM workshops please visit our field trips page.