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Early Learning, Environmental Lessons and STEM Prioritization: Trends in K-12 Education for 2014, Part III

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This week I've been talking about the trends I foresee making a big impact in K-12 classrooms in 2014. Already I've looked at the BYOD movement, cloud technology, personalized learning, school branding and online learning as they relate to the coming year in K-12 education. Today I'm going to wrap up the series with three more trends on the 2014 horizon in classrooms across the country. I invite you to add in your thoughts and any other trends you feel should be on my list in the comment section.

My final three trends in K-12 education for 2014 are:

Early education emphasis: Optional preschool is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Research shows that students who start the formal education experience, even one year earlier than Kindergarten, fare better long term in their academic careers. Thirty eight states offer free, voluntary preschool learning programs and nearly 1.6 million low-income families receive assistance from the federal Child Care Development Fund to pursue early childhood education. That fund is just one portion of President Obama's $75 billion plan to expand early childhood learning in order to give American students a stronger foundation going into Kindergarten. I expect that in the next decade, our terminology will change from K-12 to PK-12 when we talk about student benchmarks. This year, more states will lobby for pre-K funding and more families, from low- to high-income, will seek out early learning options to set their kids up for academic success.

Outdoor/environmental learning: In short, more schools are looking for ways to get students and teachers outside. We are in an era of experiential learning, so environmental education fits the bill for many students. Lessons in this field teach children an appreciation of the earth and of its resources that the human population is quickly depleting. A better, hands-on understanding of nature also helps with science comprehension and gives students practical learning experiences.

Research has also found that teaching outside, even for short stints, improves student attitudes, attendance and overall health. In many schools teachers have always had the freedom to take students outside if they deemed it lesson-appropriate. Look for more official outdoor-teaching policies in the coming year that encourage teachers to incorporate outdoor and environmental learning in all subjects.

Strengthening STEM education: A greater focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning has been a "trend" for at least the better part of a decade. Still, there are so many areas for improvement of STEM learning processes in K-12 classrooms and 2014 will see strides toward better delivery of these subjects to all students. This is another area where President Obama has weighed in, calling for more emphasis on STEM learning that is reflected in federal education spending.

Specifically, teachers are looking for innovative ways to deliver STEM material (mobile technology is just one way, virtual science labs are another) and more stringent benchmarks are being created at the local, state and federal level. It is no longer enough for American students to just get by in comparison to each other in STEM subjects; global competition is proving that students in the U.S. need more focus in these subjects to lead the worldwide marketplace as adults. This year, expect teachers as early as pre-K to start putting as much emphasis on STEM learning as reading and letter formation.

There is so much to look forward to in the 2014 calendar year when it comes to K-12 classrooms. These trends are just a sampling of what educators will seek out to better prepare students for the rest of their academic careers and for lifelong success.

What trends for 2014 in K-12 education would you add to my list?

Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.

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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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