Have you heard people talking about why STEM education is so important? Are you even really sure what STEM means? Don’t fret! With so many acronyms used in the world of childhood development, it can certainly get a little overwhelming.
But rest assured, we’re here to break things down for you! Below, you’ll learn what STEM means and why it’s so important, as well as some ideas and resources that you can implement to help your child excel—both now and in their future career endeavors.
What is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, but it’s so much more than just that. STEM-centered programs are designed to engage and educate kids through real-life experiences and hands-on experiments. Unlike traditional classroom settings, students in a STEM program will not simply read a book or watch someone else conduct an experiment. The program is meant to be very interactive and hands-on, aiming to thoroughly engage the child to help them develop a deep understanding of what they are learning.
Since STEM focuses on learning through doing, it stands apart from isolated courses in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Through the hands-on, real-life experiments, which are at the core of STEM education, children can now learn more than one subject at a time. For example, although students may ultimately be working to design a sturdy structure, they will also need to factor in other variables, such as wind or the weight of objects that will be placed on the structure. The outcome? A more well-rounded, well-educated young problem solver!
Believe it or not, STEM is all around you. You use it every day, probably without even realizing that you are doing so. You are using STEM concepts when you double ingredients for a recipe, calculate a tip at a restaurant, and comment on how fast that ‘crazy’ driver who sped by you on the freeway must have been going.
In the real world, adults in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field rarely use one skill in isolation. STEM helps to prepare children for future success in these careers, and in their everyday life. As a parent, we encourage you to become more conscious of when you are using STEM in your everyday life, so you can be more purposeful in engaging your child in these experiences, too.
Careers in STEM fields are growing more and more popular. By the time your child is an adult, there will likely be an even greater need for graduates to enter into STEM fields. Helping your child, no matter how young they are, begin to develop an interest and appreciation for STEM now will help them secure a successful future.
Why Should You Get Your Child Interested in STEM Early?
It is never too early to begin to spark your child’s interest in STEM. In fact, the earlier you can get this spark and love for STEM to light, the less likely it will be to fade as your child grows older and wiser.
That said, there are many reasons you should introduce children to STEM as early as you can. Here are some things you should know about early STEM learning:
- Introducing children to STEM concepts early can help them become better problem solvers. Many STEM activities are experiments where children are asked to practice problem-solving in order to find a solution. As they grow, their problem-solving abilities will help them in nearly every aspect of their life. Whether they’ve just hurt a friend’s feelings or lost their lunch money, a history of problem-solving experience will help them find a solution.
- Younger children are frequently more excited about learning and conducting experiments. As children get older, it can be more challenging to get them to participate in a ‘non-required’ activity. Use this to your advantage and start experimenting with your child from an early age.
- Children are born with a million questions ready to burst out once they begin talking. Take advantage of their curiosity and work with them to find answers to some of their questions together.
- STEM also helps develop self-confidence and perseverance in children. Often, in an experiment, what you want to happen doesn’t or you make an error. You may have to repeat the same experiment multiple times in order to answer the question posed. This helps children develop a positive attitude and encourages them to keep trying, even when something is challenging.
- STEM concepts are used in our everyday life, regardless of our career choice. Help set your child up for success by developing an understanding of these everyday skills.
If your child is older already, don’t feel like you’ve completely missed your chance to get them interested in STEM. It is never too late to light that fire!
How to Introduce Your Child to STEM
There are so many things you can do to help develop your child’s interest in STEM. Below, we have a few suggested ideas you can try, but the possibilities are really endless:
- Visit a science museum that features hands-on exhibits. Your child will enjoy learning by doing. Even if they cannot read yet, they can participate in different experiments and learn new concepts.
- Go for a walk or a hike outside and have your child share what they observe. Ask them questions to get them to look more closely at different objects. Prompt them to provide detailed responses that really make them think.
- Believe it or not, playing with your child can also help them gain an interest in STEM. Build a tower of blocks and discuss why it stayed up or why it fell down easily. Talk about how you could make the structure sturdier.
- Bring a few household items into the bathroom for a fun experiment on sinking and floating. You can have your child make predictions about whether each item will sink or float. After the experiment, you can have them explain why they think each item actually sank or floated.
When you realize you are using a STEM concept in everyday life, point it out to your child. Discuss why something worked the way it did, or why you came to a given conclusion based on the information you had. Ask your child questions! Have them explain what they’re doing, why they think their hair stands up when it is rubbed with a balloon, or when they think they will have enough money saved up for that special game.
Experience the Difference Our STEM Programs Can Make!
If you are looking for a fun program that will help your child enhance their interests and knowledge related to STEM concepts, then look no further! From summer camps to after school programs, we’re passionate about inspiring the next generation of engineers.