DOI: 10.1002/sce.21846 ISSN: 0036-8326

Children's exposure to STEM instruction in preschool and how they respond to it

Charles R. Greenwood, Dwight W. Irvin, Alana G. Schnitz, Jay Buzhardt
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Education


Early childhood is an opportune time to begin teaching STEM, and preschool education provides the opportunity. How children experience and respond to STEM in community‐based preschools is our focus. Using the CIRCLE classroom observation system, we examined how frequently and in what contexts preschool teachers provided STEM learning opportunities, and how children responded using quantitative–descriptive methods. Data were collected in 39 low‐socioeconomic status (SES), community‐based preschool classrooms on a stratified sample of 117 children that included mono‐English speaking children, dual language learners, and children with a diagnosed disability. Results indicated that children were exposed to nonacademic content 71% of the observed time. In contrast, STEM instruction occurred only 7% of the time, or about 6 min of our 90 min observation on a given day. When teachers provided STEM content, the probability that children were academically engaged was 0.57 compared with only 0.08 during nonacademic content. There were no statistically significant differences in STEM academic content received between girls and boys, children with versus without an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and English‐only speakers versus dual language learners. However, dual language learners were significantly less engaged during STEM than English‐only speakers. Implications are discussed.

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