Pedagogic Approach for Good Early STEM Education
In its pedagogic work, the "Haus der kleinen Forscher" takes children seriously as individuals who learn actively and are competent, inquisitive, and open to the world around them. The pedagogic vision of the Foundation is based on the concept of co-construction – that is, children and their reference persons jointly shape learning processes. Central to these learning processes are exploration and inquiry.
Children's Everyday Lives Are Full of Research Questions
The inquisitiveness of children is boundless, and is lived anew every day. They are very interested in understanding and exploring the world around them. When doing so, they constantly encounter scientific phenomena and technical and sustainability-related questions: In the mornings, the toothpaste foams when they are brushing their teeth. Loud music comes from a tiny loudspeaker. And where does chocolate actually come from? In children's everyday lives, there are countless occasions for joint exploration and inquiry.
Our View of the Child
The way we view and interact with children is decisive when it comes to facilitating their daily explorations. The following perspectives shape pedagogical practice at the "Haus der kleinen Forscher":
- Children have a wealth of pre-knowledge and competencies.
- Children have an innate desire to learn.
- Children actively co-shape their education and development.
- Every child is different from other children by virtue of his or her personality and individuality.
- Children have rights.
The Difference Between Exploration and Inquiry
The term exploring, as used in STEM education, means that children perceive their world with all their senses, and experience it playfully through active trying out and varied repetitions. "How many leaves are floating on the water?" "Will they sink?" Foundational experiences such as these form the basis for asking further questions and learning.
During inquiry, or inquiry-based learning – that is, purposeful engagement with a question, a problem, or a need – children take a systematic approach. "Why is the leaf floating on the water?" "What happens if I put a little stone on the leaf?" Here, phases of thinking/reflecting alternate with phases of creating or acting. This process is reflected in the four inquiry cycles that educators use as tools for the facilitation of learning.
Facilitating Children's Exploration and Inquiry Appropriately
Learning is a social process. Children learn in interaction with and from others through stimulation, individual exploration, and joint reflection. Here, interaction with adults is as important as collaboration with other children. An interaction between an early childhood educator or a primary school teacher and a child that stimulates learning is characterised by three key elements: an appreciative, encouraging atmosphere, orientation towards the child, and dialogue.
Early STEM Education for Sustainable Development Promotes Important Future Skills
Good early STEM Education for Sustainable Development contributes to important transformative competencies currently advocated by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). When engaging in exploration and inquiry about scientific and technical questions, children develop abilities that promote their creative, inventive, and critical thinking, and help them to find solutions for problems, take responsibility, and reconcile tensions and dilemmas:
- Children who engage in exploration and inquiry formulate questions, thereby independently or collaboratively acquiring an understanding of inter-connections. At the same time, this promotes language learning.
- When searching for valid answers, children develop a critical attitude and the ability to independently assess sources and points of view. This is not least of relevance in our digital world, in which it is often difficult to distinguish between facts and misinformation.
- On the basis of this reflective acquisition of knowledge, children are ultimately able to make sustainable decisions and create new value.