I am a firm believer that STEM programming knows no age limits, and this philosophy led me to develop a preschool science series of programs at my library. Each Preschool Science Story Time involves a few main components: an age-appropriate story; a group retelling of the story with discussion of the science in the story; and hands-on activity. The most recent Preschool Science Story Time featured the well-known tale of the Three Little Pigs. The program is easily replicable; I hope you’ll try it at your library!
First, we read our story. After a brief intro song to get everyone settled into story time mode, I pulled out Bernadette Watts’s The Three Little Pigs. The illustrations in this new version are big and clear, allowing us to focus our attention on the materials in the story: straw, sticks, and bricks. Several children hadn’t heard the story before, but by the end they were huffing and puffing like the biggest, baddest wolves you’ve ever seen.
Next, we retell the story together. I started our retelling by setting the scene of the three little pigs leaving home. For visuals, I used the awesome graphics I found at Graphics by Ruth. As the children chimed in to retell the Three Little Pigs, we paused to discuss the scientific principles in the story. Why was the wolf able to blow down a house made of straw? What makes a material strong? Our science buzzwords for the program were material and strength, and our retelling really focused in on those concepts.
We always have plenty of time to be hands-on with the science. I’m a big fan of stations in preschool science programming–since caregivers tend to stay in the program room with their children, each child usually has a grown-up guide to help them through different activities. For our Three Little Pigs programming, there were three stations set up around the room: one for building structures out of drinking straws; one for building structures out of unsharpened pencils; and one for building structures out of Duplos. Each child was encouraged to build a structure and then test it. Would it withstand being blown on by a person? What about being blown by a hair dryer? After testing each structure, children could make a mark on our simple wall chart that showed the relative strength of our building materials (grown-ups were key in making the chart work, although children were psyched to add to it). I walked around the room asking children how they thought their structures would withstand the air before they tested them. Thus, from start to finish, the hands-on activities hit all the major scientific method steps.
Everyone leaves with a book and/or sheet of at-home activities to reinforce our topic. All of our versions of the Three Little Pigs were checked out after the program, as were most of our non-fiction titles on materials and strength. I also made available a one-page (front and back) activity sheet that would continue to engage children in the concepts we had talked about. One activity called for having a grown-up take the child outside to draw a picture of his or her house, then talk about what it is made of. Another section suggested that caregivers replicate our stations at home, albeit using water instead of air as a test for strength. It is important to me to have these grab-and-go preschool science activity hand-outs accessible both in the program and at the check-out desk for a week afterward; since not every preschooler can attend the in-library program, I want to ensure families have resources to support at-home science if they are so inclined. That way a huge variety of children have access to STEM activities.
Do you offer STEM programming for preschoolers at your library? What do you do, and how do you do it?