Monday, January 12, 2015

Gingerbread Geometry

I love these Gingerbread house guides on Tinkerlab: "Seven Ways to Build a Gingerbread House." It reminded me of teaching geometry to adult learners at a community college in Wisconsin. In my class, I brought cylinders in that I had wrapped with paper. I asked my students to guess what shape the paper would be when we took it off. Guesses ranged from circle to oval but no one could believe their eyes when they unwrapped a rectangle. The lesson was to help them practice those spatial exercises to perform surface area calculations. Now that I am teaching preschoolers and the holiday season is upon us, I am recognizing all these similar pre-math activities.

Building gingerbread houses, wrapping different size and shape gifts, and winding twinkle lights around a tree are all wonderful places for children to learn pre-math skills and pre-engineering skills. They experiment with putting shapes together  when they build houses (pre-math). They learn about materials for holding sides together with rooftops as well as the aesthetic value of symmetry (pre-engineering). They learn experientially about length, circumference and surface area when they run around a tree trunk to wrap twinkle lights (more pre-math). They also learn how tightly they have to wrap or how to find "hooks" on the tree so the lights don't come tumbling down (pre-physics). The preschool STEM learning is just everywhere! No wonder it is an exciting time for preschool engineers.

So rest assured that STEM education does not take a break at the holidays. It is there. Let your child enjoy it!

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