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Posted in , on May 13, 2024

STEM in pre-K is about exploration

In Arlington ISD’s pre-K, 4-year-olds are real scientists.

“They especially like it when they wear safety goggles,” said Viki Miller, a pre-K teacher at Dunn Elementary. “They really feel like scientists then.”

They feel like it because it’s true.

Two years ago Arlington ISD introduced a new innovative pre-K 4 curriculum that features STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and launches little learners on a journey of discovery.

So, what does STEM at the pre-K level look like?

Like an exploding snowman.

That was one of Miller’s class’s favorite STEM projects.

It’s a bag of baking soda. But then they poured vinegar on the baking soda and it puffed up like a snowman.

“They thought that was amazing,” Miller said.

Pre-K 4 Press Conference - Full STEM AheadSTEM in pre-K comes in a variety of ways, from exploding snowmen and other science experiments and observations in the school’s STEM labs – every Arlington ISD elementary school has two STEM labs – to STEM stations in the classroom and a big family project that the kids do with parents at home.

But it all fits squarely into the district’s play-based curriculum.

“Our pre-K curriculum allows preschool children many types of play throughout the day,” early childhood director Dr. Jackeline Orsini said. “Our daily lesson plans allow children to participate in physical, cognitive, language and social play through structured and non-structured activities.”

And STEM is a big part of that.

STEM in pre-K isn’t just a list of activities done in a lab with safety glasses though.

It’s a philosophy about making the lessons relevant to the real world. It’s about providing hands-on activities that let kids participate in their own learning. And it’s about integration. In other words, you don’t teach each concept in isolation. You combine them in activities that allow students to make real-world connections.

And they are all activities that feel like playing to a 4-year-old.

Learning STEM at an early age gives students lots of opportunities to explore, hone their problem-solving skills, work on their fine and gross motor skills and develop critical thinking.

Pre-K STEM“Children love to learn by playing with hands-on and mind-on activities,” said Amos Elementary kindergarten teacher Katy Peterson. “STEM provides just this. It gives intriguing opportunities to see how things work and relate to real life.”

STEM activities involve touching things, experimenting and seeing how stuff works. They are purposefully designed to spark questions and curiosity and give kids the chance to pursue that curiosity and find answers to their own questions.

And it’s fun! It’s often messy fun that brings learning to life. It’s about exploring and trying new things. And fun is key in getting kids excited to learn.

Come explore with us

If STEM in pre-K sounds a little daunting for your future student, don’t worry. If they love to play with LEGOs, Play-Doh, build things (or take things apart), and have a natural curiosity about everything, they will love STEM.

Plus, it’s free! Arlington ISD’s pre-K for 4-year-olds is open to everyone at no cost. Registration is open online now. Visit to learn more and register.