The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for first grade cover some topics that require tangible exploration. These include light, sound, waves, and communication. There are also specific engineering standards, in which students must design structures that mimic plants, and create inventions that mimic animal characteristics. Having STEAM equipment will allow students to understand the concepts within these standards in a concrete way. While our school STEAM lab has a lot of good materials, our science teacher uses most of the materials that align to our units in her class, so we cannot check them out. Having these materials for just 1st grade would allow repeated access for multiple collaborative explorations.
In the realm of math, students are expected to use various objects to create models of addition and subtraction, for measurement of length, height, and width, and to create their own models of standard and non-standard 3D shapes. The materials our math program provided include only foam dots, bendy straws, and linking cubes for these activities. Have a variety of differently connecting engineering materials will be both more engaging for students, and also broaden their understanding of math modeling in various contexts.
Finally, these materials will benefit students oral and written production. Horacio Sanchez, author of A Brain-Based Approach to Closing the Achievement Gap (2008), and a two-time visitor to our district, explains how motor activity helps language production. Research shows that when students engage the motor part of the brain, they can more easily access the lingual parts, allowing for easier recall of vocabulary as well as increased production of writing. As we are a dual-language school, where all students are learning a second language, actual STEAM equipment is critically important. It is even more so specifically for first grade, when students write multiple sentences about their academic experiences and learning for the first time.