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Milton Bertrand 307 articles

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STEM Is Everywhere Let the Children Play

When I was a kid, I really liked to play. I was very inquisitive about my toys, or almost anything for that matter. I used to take them apart and put them back together. There were times it took me several tries to put them back together; I did not realize I was involved in a process called “Reverse engineering”. During my playing time it was constant observation, and experimentation (Science). I explored simple tools (Technology). When my toys did not work properly, I fixed the problem; in so doing, I learned problem solving skills (Engineering). I was fascinated with shape of objects and patterns as to why certain things did look different (Mathematics). 

As an adult today, this is what STEM really is; once it is identified, it will be found everywhere.  A major aspect of STEM education can be found in a child’s free, unhindered play. If we were to observe some kids at play, they explore the properties of the material, experiment, design, fail, collaborate, and construct.

One thing that I must stress out “Entertainment and Play”; we must not confuse the two. There is an unprecedented danger when it comes to the right of every child to exercise his/her play freely. The ubiquitous presence of electronic devices and increased fear of risk are pushing down the power of play. It has been proven that active, self-directed play is vital to young children’s development. Self-directed play is a play that evolves when a child chooses what to play and make up his/her own rules for how to play. Many years of research demonstrate the critical importance of this particular type of play for all children’s learning and well being. This important play is the first thing to disappear; it is often difficult for children to describe what they are doing when they are involved in this kind of play.

Some may question the value of playing; that may stem as many parents may not have experienced the wonder years of playing as children themselves, so they cannot be expected to value the power of play for their children.

Playing has a range of benefits for children, such as socio-emotional health, physical health, social learning, and improvement of problem solving skills, and improved self-regulation.  In addition, playing has great overall health benefit as it mitigates the childhood obesity epidemic.

As there is a push toward STEM education; it is necessary to let the children play. Playing has to be valued, and supported.  In so doing, they will emerge as competent, creative, and innovative adults.