BY ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
It may just be play to them, but the 4- and 5-year-olds at the WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology Skyline Toolbox exhibit are engaging with an intentional STEM Starter.
Implemented last summer, and with more in the works, the science, technology, engineering, and math exhibits that make up STEM Starters are specifically designed for this age group but are deliberately embedded next to larger exhibits.
“The idea behind this is that kids are social learners,” says Emmy Brockman, WonderLab education director. “The 4- to 5-year-olds get to watch and observe the older kids and learn from them—what’s known as the zone of proximal development.”
For example, with the Skyline Toolbox exhibit, putting materials together with nuts and bolts engages the 4- to 5-year-olds, plus they have the opportunity to check out the older kids using the crane next to them.
Funded through a $7,500 grant from the Smithville Charitable Foundation, STEM Starters is part of WonderLab’s mission to advance early hands-on science education. “We wanted to be more intentional about making the whole museum appropriate for ages 4 to 5,” Brockman says.