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Preschool Teachers Provide Hands-On Learning for Future Innovators

Posted On Apr 16, 2024

When deciding on a career, few are more fulfilling than early childhood education. When working with young children, you know you are setting a generation of students up for future success. Preschoolers learn best when actively involved in their learning, making hands-on activities one of the best ways to engage their minds and allow concepts to sink in fully. Becoming a preschool teacher means that you can spend your days with a class of future innovators, helping them work through discoveries and get excited about learning. You can take several paths to become a preschool teacher, and some can get you into the classroom more quickly so you can begin making a difference.

Preschool students learning on a computer.

STEM Fits Perfectly into Preschool

Preschool students are always trying to figure out the “why” of the world. Young students are inherently curious about their environment and will experiment to test their theories without understanding what they are doing. Often, the curriculum doesn’t begin to incorporate STEM activities into education into middle school or late elementary at best. Still, studies have shown that preschoolers introduced to STEM early on through hands-on activities will be better equipped to develop a more profound and substantial understanding of STEM concepts in their secondary school years.

Teachers can do this simply by adding some STEM vocabulary into their everyday work, such as “experiment,” “model,” or “design.” Preschoolers are already naturally drawn to experiment, and early childhood educators can take that natural inclination and add the vocabulary that will plant the STEM seeds.

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STEM Activities for Preschoolers

STEM doesn’t start with robotics or advanced math concepts. It simply begins with asking questions about how or why something works. Some basic concepts can work well with preschool activities:

  • Observation

Encourage preschoolers to describe their world as they observe it and help them make connections. When preschoolers build with blocks, help them count how many blocks they used and what different shapes they combined, and wonder if the tower could be constructed from anything else.

  • Beginning Math Concepts

Measurement, counting, shapes, and spatial relationships are all building blocks for math concepts children will need later in their educational journey. Help students organize a set of objects by size or weight, have them sort shapes, work on the concepts of “more” and “less,” and define spatial relationships using words like “on top of,” “underneath,” and “corner.” Songs are an excellent way to play with numbers and math concepts.

  • Patterns

Looking for patterns is a great way to introduce STEM concepts to young children. Students can identify and build patterns in the classroom, but they look for patterns in their world.

  • Basic Technology and Engineering

Technology is more than using a tablet or laptop during instruction. Allow children to explore tools, talk through the step-by-step directions on how to do a task, experiment with simple machines to see how they work, and begin to understand the structure and function of tools. Ask students how to make simple things work better in the classroom and allow them to experiment. 

Hands-On Learning is Effective for Students 

One of the least effective modes of STEM instruction is telling students information without allowing them to participate actively. Even if you successfully have a classroom of preschoolers memorize a concept and recite it back from rote teaching, these students will typically have retained the information in any natural way. The more hands-on you allow your preschool students to be, the deeper their understanding of the concept. It is interesting to note that hands-on learning is excellent for kids and adult students alike. Reading about how children learn is not nearly as effective as the methods used in vocational programs that allow potential teachers to get real hands-on experience integrating these concepts.

Multiple Paths to a Career in Early Childhood Education

Suppose you want to guide these future innovators through hands-on activities and active learning. In that case, there are several paths to becoming a preschool teacher or a similar career in early childhood education. Many community colleges, vocational schools, and career academies offer an early childhood education associate degree that allows you to begin working with children from birth to age 5 in as little as two years. These programs offer flexible schedules, low tuition rates, job placement assistance, and a vital education aligned with NAEYC standards. 

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The Vocational School Advantage

When many adults think of vocational schools, they think of trades, such as HVAC, plumbing, and electrical, or certificate programs, such as medical assistants, other medical technician specialty careers, and CNA programs. Vocational schools are excellent at preparing students for in-demand careers with programs that can be completed far more efficiently and cost-effectively than traditional four-year degree programs. Still, the careers they can prepare you for aren’t limited to only a few trades or technical jobs. The average cost of a bachelor's degree has more than doubled since the beginning of the 21st century, and many students simply can’t – or choose not – make that kind of investment.

Vocational schools are a much more affordable option for those needing training for their career and often offer the same type of hands-on experiences that are beneficial for effective learning. Vocational schools are focused on getting their students into in-demand careers and will frequently put a substantial amount of effort into job placement and assistance.

Hands-on learning is essential to early childhood education, especially with STEM activities. Watching preschool students get their “lightbulb moments” as they discover new concepts and how to discover the answers to their questions is an incredibly fulfilling way to spend your workday. When you give students the tools they need to succeed, you will know you are setting them up for educational success. If you are interested in a career as a preschool teacher, there are many options to achieve that goal without making the financial and time investment of a four-year program – and often one that will give you the same opportunity for hands-on learning.

Why Choose Athena Career Academy? 

Join Athena Career Academy today and embark on a fulfilling journey shaping the future innovators of tomorrow! With our comprehensive early childhood education programs, you'll learn to engage young minds through hands-on STEM activities, laying the foundation for lifelong learning. Whether you're considering a career change or starting fresh, our vocational school offers flexible schedules, affordable tuition, and job placement assistance, ensuring you can make a difference in the classroom from day one. Don't wait—start your rewarding career in preschool education with Athena Career Academy now! Contact us today to learn more. 

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