Science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
These are the four subject areas that make up what is known as STEM education. Over the last several years, the importance of STEM has become increasingly clear. With the constant steps forward in technology in nearly every aspect of society, these subjects are those which can help students have an advantage in an ever-evolving professional environment.
But it’s not just about a career. Many kids will choose to pursue employment outside the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. However, the skills involved in these areas can produce excellent benefits nonetheless, helping to turn our kids into the next generation of thought leaders and innovators.
Want to motivate your kids to incorporate STEM into their lives? Here’s how you can encourage STEM at home, and why you should.
One of the primary reasons to promote STEM is simply to make it more accessible. Sure, your kids learn about some of these topics in school, but STEM education can help bring them to life in a greater way.
They may, too, choose to go after a career in one of the STEM-related fields. There are many reasons why this could be a good thing, not only because these types of roles are growing, but because there’s a genuine demand for them. According to statistics, some 2.4 million STEM jobs are projected to go unfilled in 2018. That’s a major gap, and a perfect opportunity for future engineers, scientists, and web developers to step in. The world needs these professionals. This is one reason that STEM education is so vitally important.
Some reports suggest that while STEM education is lacking in many nations, Australia is especially falling behind, which, according to this University of Melbourne article, is “threatening our economic prospects and our young people’s career prospects.” Clearly, prioritising STEM could be advantageous for our country.
STEM is also good for the world as a whole, beyond just individual career success. By introducing children to STEM concepts from a young age, we can encourage our young people to take an active interest in things like environmental sustainability or scientific research.
Could your child discover a cure for cancer, or design a sustainable product that supports the planet?
If an interest is sparked young, it’s possible that your child’s ultimate contributions in these areas could truly have wide-reaching and world-altering effects.
Finally, there’s a significant disparity in the number of women and minorities in STEM roles. Emphasising STEM in schools and at home can help to bridge this gap. Research shows that girls’ interest in these fields peaks around the age of 11, but frequently dissipates around the age of 15. The reason for this is likely to be lack of access, as well as social factors. With women remaining largely unrepresented in the STEM workforce, young women are rarely exposed to role models of women working in sciences, engineering, technology, and mathematics. STEM education can help to change them.
STEM at Home
Sometimes, traditional education in the areas of STEM falls short. This is because these subjects are often thought of as “difficult” or “uninteresting.” The prevailing methods of teaching these subjects may also be lacking, failing to engage students in real or lasting ways.
While STEM education is being integrated into our schools here in Australia, a lot of learning occurs at home, and some of this learning can make the biggest impressions. Do you want to encourage ongoing STEM interest and skills in your children? We’ve got some ideas for promoting STEM at home.
Read at home
You might not think of reading when you think of STEM, but fostering a love of reading in your children can help inspire them in all kinds of intellectual and creative pursuits. If you’re looking to add more STEM-friendly content, there are lots of books that are suitable for all ages. Check out this article for a few ideas to add to your reading list.
Set up a curiosity jar
Learning is all about curiosity and discovery. One of the best ways to encourage your children to love learning (and to engage in science) is to show them how to use it for topics they find interesting. After all, science (and technology, maths and engineering) is really about finding the answers to questions about the world.
With your kids, start a family curiosity jar. The purpose of the jar is to hold all of the questions you come up with about the world. Simply write the query on a slip of paper, and place into the jar. Then, set aside a time each week to go through one or more of the questions and research together to find an answer.
For younger kids, this can help them discover the reason that the sky is blue, or why the seasons change. As kids grow, the questions can become more complex and intricate. Seeking out the answer together will be rewarding and empowering, and you’re likely to stumble upon answers that are absolutely fascinating. Even as an adult you’re bound to learn something, too.
Have your child teach you how to code!
Kids love to show off what they know. These days, it seems that kids are the ones who know more about technology than we do. Why not have them instruct you on a skill they’ve learned? You can also learn to code together. Some excellent resources include Code.org, Scratch, and Tynker. A big bonus to gaining these coding skills is that they could aid your child in their future career. Computer-related jobs have grown massively over the past decades.
Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies! By baking as a family, you can work on basic maths through following recipes. Measurements, ratios, and temperature are all factors that impact your baking results. You can also discuss where the ingredients come from, and talk about the environmental impact. When you’re done learning, you’ll have the ultimate reward of a tasty treat to share!
DIY experiments and games
STEM is all about diving in and trying new things. The Smithsonian’s “Do Try This at Home” website is filled with great project ideas you can tackle alongside your kids. You’ll find everything from online brain teasers and puzzles to instructions on how to build your own lego lightbulb. These activities are not only fun, but introduce your children to the magic and wonder of science, and to the thrill of experimentation and innovation.
Make things out of cardboard
As a family, you can take time to learn about recycling and other environmentally-friendly practises, but have you ever heard of upcycling? With tools from a site such as MakeDo, your kids can turn old items into something new and amazing. MakeDo focuses on cardboard construction and gives your kids the tools and the “blueprints” to build some crazy cool objects. The only limit is their imagination!
Why Work in STEM?
Your children ultimately may not have an interest in any STEM-related occupations, and that’s okay. There are thousands of worthwhile roles to be filled in every career field. But if they’re uncertain about their future career direction, there are some compelling arguments for pursuing STEM.
First, these jobs are highly in demand. As mentioned earlier, there are more jobs in these industries currently than there are people to fill them. This means that students pursuing these areas are likely to have excellent job prospects.
Second, STEM jobs pay well (perhaps as much as 99% better than non-STEM jobs). That’s a shocking statistic, but it makes STEM fields certainly worth considering!
And finally, these fields allow individuals to make remarkable contributions. Science and technology are growing at a rapid pace, and those who are in the midst of it are witness to incredible developments and discoveries. Who knows? Your child just might be the next Steve Jobs!
STEM Skills Translate to Other Jobs
You don’t need to be working a job in science, technology, engineering or mathematics to utilise related skills. One of the most important reasons to get kids interested in STEM is that the knowledge and abilities they gain are likely to help them in virtually any career they choose. This is not only because STEM skills aid in critical thinking and innovation, but because technology is literally everywhere. Having some tangible skills in this area can help our kids to become more competitive candidates in the job market, even if they’re working in a completely different field.
How do you promote STEM in your home?