Welcome to another parenting article on Best Case Parenting. Today, we will be looking at the idea of STEM learning, and how you can support your children in this area.
What is STEM?
Unless you have spent some time in educational circles, you may not even know what the term STEM means!
It is an acronym used to describe the learning areas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Why is it important?
A lot of parents and educators alike want to encourage STEM development and success in children. It is seen as requiring a lot of critical thinking skills, for example. Something that is highly regarded in a lot of circles! A lot of people also perceive the STEM arena to be one that could provide an excellent and lucrative career when their children grow up. Research has shown that the jobs growth rate in the STEM industries is one of the highest and fastest growing.
Just take a look around you, technology is growing and developing every year. Terms such as machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming more commonplace. A lot of the world around us is being built on the foundations of technology and math! So, not only is STEM a big industry now, but it is forecast to keep growing long into the future.
How can you encourage your child’s STEM interest and development?
Before I talk about the actual advice, I would like to preface this by saying the idea of this article is to encourage your child to develop in the area of STEM. This will be done in a fun way, without them even knowing! You cannot force a child into this. If you try to force it, your child will more than likely rebel against you and actually recent STEM rather than enjoy it! Now, on to the tips!
- Encourage questioning. Critical thinking skills are built up by a child learning to question the world around them. This leads to an inquiring mind that is already looking to solve problems and answer questions! I have an article on Best Case Parenting all about open ended questions, you can read it here.
- Explain things to your child if they show interest. Many parents will “dumb down” what they tell a child because they assume it is too complex for them. However, there is another way to look at it. Maybe the first time you explain something to them they have no idea. The second time they meet the same situation, your explanations will have some meaning. The third time they will start getting the idea! It’s a gradual process, each time their understanding will get deeper. So if your child shows an interest in something, explain it to them. Of course, I am not asking you to explain molecular orbital theory to your child! But any day to day process they show an interest in or question, can be explained in adult language.
- STEM can be hands on. STEM is an ideal area of learning to be turned into fun and engaging activities. Dry and boring explanations or “lessons” won’t inspire your child. But a cool Science experiment will. Make it fun by asking your child to wear a lab coat and role play being a scientist! STEM is all around us. The Science of material change when cooking, the joy of Engineering with construction toys or building a “den” in the garden. Do some research online, and you will find a plethora of fun and hands on STEM activities you can do at home with your children!
- Follow your child’s interests. I have said many times in Best Case Parenting, and here is no exception, whenever teaching a child something relate it to something they are already interested in. This will give the child a natural motivation to learn. Maybe your child loves trains! There is so much STEM happening around the subject of trains, from building the rails they run on to the computerised train timetables found in train stations.
- Utilise your local resources. Keep your finger on the pulse of your local community for any fun events or activities that may be happening connected to STEM learning. For example, most modern Science museums will have installations and even simple programs to bring STEM to life for kids. I did a quick search and came up with many events, such as Computer Science Education Week, National STEM day, Engineers week and so much more!
- Utilise online resources. The internet is not only to research STEM events. Many STEM orientated companies and organisations will put STEM related games and activities on their websites. The great thing is, most of this is free!
How does this relate to school and your child’s education?
- The earlier the better. Research indicates that actually STEM intelligence is not confined to a specific sex. Both boys and girls have shown to have equal ability. However, girls tend to fall off from STEM studies as soon as primary or elementary school. Studies show that girls have similar abilities to boys in science and math, but they may lose confidence in their abilities as early as elementary school. The earlier you work with your children on STEM, the more likely they are to find a life long interest and passion for this.
- Have open communication with your school. Make sure you have a good relationship and regular communication with your child’s teacher. This will help you find out more about the STEM program your school offers and how you can help with this at home. Just make sure to come across as friendly rather than demanding to the teachers! They will be more likely to help you this way.
- Be a good role model! If you want your child to grow up with a good knowledge of STEM subjects, to need to lead by example. Make sure you are also educating yourself in STEM. Then STEM conversations can be two way and fun!
- Look for after school clubs or groups. Research your local area and see if you can find any after school clubs or organisations which run activities for children on STEM. This will be an excellent compliment to the STEM they are learning at home and school. Try to find an after school club that is related to something your child is interested in. Clubs are also a great place for your child to find other role models that will inspire their STEM journey.
- Look into and share STEM related course options. A child is far more likely to take an interest in choosing STEM related studies if their parents also show an interest in this. By researching about these STEM course options and sharing this with your child, it has been proven they will be more likely to choose them.
Thank you for reading our article on Best Case Parenting. I hope you can take away some key tips and techniques you can use to encourage your children in their STEM journey.
STEM will be the backbone of many careers and opportunities in the future, so it makes sense to help your children at least be aware of the option.
If you have any of your own tips to support children with STEM, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below!