STEM Categories

Smart Steps monkey and giraffe thinking about STEM

The toy supports one or more learning goals in at least two STEM subjects.

Indicators: A ‘Minor’, ‘Moderate’, or ‘High’ response to at least two of the four specific STEM categories:





Has no potential to support age appropriate learning goals in this area.

Has little potential to support age appropriate learning goals in this area. Supports one learning goal to some extent for some children.

Has some potential to support age appropriate learning goals in this area. Strongly supports one learning goal, or two learning goals to a lesser extent, for some children.

Has high potential to support age appropriate learning goals in this area. Supports two or more learning goals, or multiple learning goals to a lesser extent, for most children.

Science Criteria

Scientific Practices




Earth’s Systems and Human Activity

  • Expressing curiosity by asking questions and solving problems.
  • Creating models to represent their ideas (e.g. mix colors of paint to show the colors of leaves changing on a tree).
  • Planning and carrying out simple investigations (e.g. compare textures of objects using the sense of touch).
  • Understanding basic safety, and using nonstandard and standard scientific tools, in experiments (e.g. studying natural items under a magnifying glass).
  • Observing, investigating, describing, and categorizing living things.
  • Understanding changes that occur in themselves and the environment (e.g. looking at photos of themselves when younger and comparing how they have grown).
  • Describing and comparing the basic needs of living things.
  • Understanding changes that occur in matter (e.g. mix substances such as baking soda and water).
  • Observing, investigating, describing, and categorizing physical objects; including earth/water/air.
  • Exploring and describing simple forces such as wind, gravity, and magnetism.
  • Understanding changes in the weather and seasons.
  • Learning to respect nature and take care of the environment.

Technology Criteria

Digital Tools

  • Recognizing that a range of technology is used for different purposes.
  • Selecting and using technology for purposes.
  • Starting to use simple technology such as tablet devices.

Engineering Criteria

General Engineering

  • Learning the concept of object permanence (that objects still exist even if they can’t see them).
  • Using levers, buttons, or instructions (e.g. press here) to get a reaction.
  • Showing curiosity about how thing work.

Mathematics Criteria

Numbers and Operations

Shapes and Measurements


  • Connecting numbers to quantities, counting objects up to five.
  • Verbally reciting numbers one to 10, and know the next number up.
  • Recognizing some single digit written numerals.
  • Recognizing that numbers and quantities can be combined or separated to make another number, and identifying this new number, up to 10.
  • Estimating and comparing quantities using objects using “more”, “less”, “greater than”, “fewer”, “equal to”, or “same as”.
  • Measuring length and capacity using non-standard measurements (e.g. a pencil) and estimations, moving onto using standard measurements.
  • Using vocabulary to describe and compare length, height, weight, capacity, and size.
  • Gaining a sense of time through routine.
  • Recognizing and naming common 2D and 3D shapes.
  • Describing, comparing, and sorting shapes by some attributes (e.g. number of sides).
  • Combining 2D shapes to create new shapes.
  • Understanding how a shape might look if it changes size, rotation, or position.
  • Describing, categorizing, and ordering objects by a single attribute, moving onto using multiple attributes.
  • Recognizing, copying, and extending simple patterns by describing or modeling with objects or actions.
  • Generating questions, making predictions, and gathering data to answer them with support (e.g. discussing whether trees have buds yet and going outside to check).
  • Organizing, representing and analyzing data with objects, with support (e.g., predict that the class collected more yellow than red leaves on the nature walk before sorting and counting them).

STEM Framework

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