Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. The profession of early learning is full of acronyms! When my ECE friends and I get together anyone listening to us might think we are speaking another language. It is the language of our profession. Learning the language supports early learning teachers in their professional journeys. Language is a navigation tool to support professional learning. Learning new terms and acronyms is important for continuous professional growth. One of the first terms learned by those entering the study of early childhood education is “developmental domains”. In early childhood education the term developmental domains is used frequently. Programming curriculum often revolves around supporting children’s development across these domains.

developmental domains

Engaging all the developmental domains when planning for children’s experiences is a worthy goal for early learning teachers. As a foundational perspective, developmental domains are a good starting point but can be limiting when seeking to see the full potential of children and curriculum possibilities. Another perspective is to consider critical learning areas when programming. For a comprehensive program plan, children’s development and learning must be considered in tandem. When early learning teachers plan with intention, they can also provide experiences focused on multiple critical learning areas as well as domains. Recently I have been presenting workshops inspired by the wonderful book by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld called Stick and Stone. During the experience I invite participants to play with natural materials and to consider the critical learning areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.


Play is the vehicle for all learning and development in the early years. Through play, children gain life-long skills that support their development and learning. Adults too, need to play in order to support children’s play. Play is not frivolous. It is through play that children will have authentic, fun and self-chosen experiences in critical learning areas. An interesting way to consider critical learning areas is to focus on the acronyms of STEM, STEAM and STREAM.



STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. These have been considered core learning areas for the 21st century.

STEAM  – Advocates for arts-based learning have called for the integration of the Arts (Robelen, 2011).

STREAM – Now we have competing acronyms as others have called for the inclusion of reading and writing into the core learning areas.

I would like to add relationships to the mix. One of the key messages of the book Stick and Stone is  about relationships specifically friendships and bullying. So my question is – how about STRREAM? I would also suggest that if you follow the STRREAM outside you will see that learning and develop begins outdoors in nature! Children belong in nature; it is in their nature. Being able to play freely in and with nature is vital to children’s healthy development while supporting their learning in wondrous ways.



9 thoughts on “From STEM to STEAM to STREAM in ECE

  1. Acronyms can be confusing if you do not know their meanings but helpful in that it is easy to remember the letters and what they stand for. I love the movement from STEM to STEAM to STREAM and to take it further to include relationships and the outdoors, brilliant! Early childhood education is a field that always has new trends popping up but we cannot forget the bigger picture or the foundations that the trends may lead us away from. For example, sometimes the emphasis on taking children outside and play can take us away from story time and reading so I just love your STRREAM acronym that leads us outdoors and yet still includes science, technology, the arts and reading. And how can we ever forget the all important relationships. Wonderful.


  2. I propose a mash up


    Start with relationships, closely followed by self and collective expression through the arts. The rest will fall I to place if we get the first two right.Becky

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I look at the images shared here, I think about our forest learning each day. This play is so important! And when we, as educators, observe this play, and at times, insert ourselves into it, we can also provide those questions/extensions that can help make the more obvious links to science, technology, math, and even, reading and writing. I cannot share enough how much this play means to my teaching partner and I, as well as to our students.


    Liked by 1 person

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