Little Scientists Australia workshops spark wonder in STEM education

Picture of a child about to throw a paper plane, surrounded by scientific terms associated with flight.

For National Science Week, we have a discussion with Project Director of Little Scientists Australia, Sibylle Seidler.

Reigniting adults’ curiosity and thirst for exploration is the goal of a series of workshops encouraging the use of STEM  concepts in early childhood education.

As part of National Science Week (14-22 August 2021), Little Scientists Australia will offer a range of professional development opportunities that promote playful, inquiry-based STEM learning.

Project Director of Little Scientists Australia, Sibylle Seidler says the program is targeted at educators and teachers while children are the beneficiaries.

“The core objective is really to upskill educators and reignite their curiosity.

“As adults we’ve often forgotten what it’s like to step into children’s shoes or see the world with their eyes. At Little Scientists we really want to reignite that and allow adults to ponder and wonder about the world around them."

The Little Scientists workshops are designed as a diverse, long-term program covering topics like mathematics; design and technologies; optics; acoustics and computer science unplugged.

“It’s not just inquiry-based learning or just one STEM topic. We have 10 different workshop topics that are quite diverse, and each one has pedagogy- interwoven in it.

“Young preschool children do not need an in-depth explanation of a black hole or a chemical reaction so it’s really about taking their questions on board and going on a journey of exploration with them.”

Seidler says young children begin wondering about how things work from an early age which is why STEM education is so important.

“You can see it from birth, like when kids are on a play mat exploring with blocks for example, [they explore] how to stack them up so they don’t fall over. It’s important to instil that curiosity and inquiry-based learning which is essential.”

STEM also teaches young children important life skills like collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and peer learning which helps prepare kids entering formal schooling. Inquiry-based learning also teaches children and adults about failure and resilience – how it’s normal to fail and often learning opportunities come from failed explorations.

Little Scientists Australia’s accredited workshops encourage children to seek answers for themselves with support from their educators.

“It’s proven that if you find out for yourself, you learn much better and that knowledge really sticks. So when an educator is on the floor it’s about exploring with the kids and saying: ‘I don’t know, what do you think is going to happen?’” 

“As an adult it’s not about giving them the answers, but about exploring with them and [you’ll] be surprised how much joy and satisfaction and curiosity it gives back to us adults.

“Be inspired by your children’s questions. Don’t take it as a threat, but as inspiration.”

During National Science Week, Little Scientists Australia is offering a range of online resources including workshops, webinars and free virtual incursions for children, families and educators.

“We love National Science Week, though at Little Scientists we like to say: ‘Spot the STEM in the everyday’.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment is funding Little Scientists through to 2024-25 to improve the teaching and learning of STEM in schools and early learning.

This article was published as part of National Science Week 2021.

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Correct at time of publication.