Learning Environments that Improve STEM Capabilities in Israel: Constructional Play and Preschoolers’ Engineering Habits of Mind

Ornit Spektor-Levy, Taly Shechter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Early childhood is ideal period for introducing STEM concepts and engaging children in developmentally appropriate activities to begin understanding the world around them. The Preschool Education Division of the Israeli Ministry of Education has initiated the Future Kindergarten model—encouraging educators and children to initiate, explore, and create their own diverse learning environments and resources. The model is conducive to developing knowledge, skills, and values tailored to the children’s needs, based on four anchors: Personal Expression; Community; Entrepreneurship and Productivity; Learning in Living Spaces. In accordance with this initiative we describe research-based evidence that shows that when educators allow children to play and collaborate independently in an educational environment richly equipped with construction materials, the children improve their Engineering Habits of Mind (EHoM) and their design products. Preschoolers (N =228, 5-6 years of age), from six mainstream classrooms, took part in this study. The intervention group (N =126) experienced 6month of free-choice construction experiences in the enriched learning environment with diverse materials. This group performed significantly better in EHoM practices and the quality of the design product in an open-ended, problem-solving construction task. These results demonstrate the ways in which well thought learning environments, enriched with open-ended materials can enhance preschoolers’ cognitive capabilities in a play-based manner.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlay and STEM Education in the Early Years
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Policies and Practices
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783030998301
ISBN (Print)9783030998295
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022.


  • Engineering Habits of Mind
  • Learning environment
  • Play
  • Preschool
  • STEM education


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