There is a great deal of evidence to support the benefits of offering quality STEM experiences to young learners. But due to a combination of stagnant and vacillating policies, pre-K and primary school classrooms have not yet found the support to implement strong programs.
Recent advancements in STEM teaching and learning research and new efforts to fill knowledge gaps must become better aligned to exert more influence on policies and practices throughout the pre-K-3rd grade years. With more awareness of the significance of STEM education in children’s earliest years, policymakers can build new constituencies for investing in early childhood education (ECE) and strengthening the teaching workforce.
With 42 states adopting the Common Core State Standards and another 14 embracing the Next Generation Science Standards, there is no better time to strengthen connections between early childhood education research, policy, and practice. These connections will point to the urgency for injecting STEM findings into new workforce preparation systems and building a more robust cradle-to-career STEM pipeline. To address these national opportunities and concerns, the Cooney Center and New America worked together with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to bring forth new ideas on how to integrate STEM into early learning settings and spotlight contributions from NSF-funded research an in effort to broker increased communication and sustained collaboration among researchers, policymakers, and ECE program leaders.
Fostering STEM Trajectories: Bridging ECE Research, Practice, & Policy will include a series of commissioned papers aimed at surfacing the most critical issues in early childhood learning and teaching, and stimulating action-oriented, intersectoral conversations around them. A forum was held at New America in Spring 2016 to gather input and ideas from researchers, practitioners, and policy analysts who focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in early learning settings and the early elementary grades.
STEM Starts Early: Grounding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education in Early Childhood was published in February 2017.