Research Report

Science and Engineering in Preschool Through Elementary Grades

The Brilliance of Children and the Strengths of Educators

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
October 2021 | The National Academies Press

This report and brief by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine argues that science and engineering education should begin in early childhood and continue through elementary school in order to better prepare students for rigorous STEM requirements in middle and high school. The brief notes that students in elementary school receive science education for about 20 minutes per day on average, and schools that predominantly serve students of color generally offer less STEM education than schools that serve white students.

In addition, the brief finds that students who are English language learners and other students receiving academic support are pulled from their science and engineering classrooms at a much higher rate than their peers, creating science and engineering learning loss. Lastly, the report recommends that state policymakers ensure that science and engineering are comprehensively and consistently taught at the preschool and elementary levels and that students are not pulled from their science and engineering courses for supplementary education in other subjects. It also calls on district and school leaders to allocate the necessary resources—time, money, materials, and teachers—to support equitable science and engineering learning opportunities.