Educators across the country are responding to the push for STEM education. As a parent, it is in your student’s best interest that you understand what STEM education is and how you can support your student. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Related acronyms are STEAM and STREAM. STEAM is Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. STREAM is Science, Technology, Research, Engineering, Art and Math. Here’s the idea, the jobs of the 21st century will require that workers be at least proficient in these areas. Many educators believe that in order to prepare children for the jobs of the future, educators must provide quality STEM education for students. There are those who disagree, but today’s conversation is about how you as a parent can support your student if they are attending schools where the educators believe this way.
1. Each of these fields is about creativity. Give your child opportunities to be creative, to build, to think outside of the workbook page. Children who are creative will be in the best position to solve problems using science, technology, engineering and math.
2. Read broadly. Gone are the days when reading fiction exclusively is the best way to prepare children for school. Read non-fiction about science, technology, engineering and math. Two great resources for kids online are National Geographic Kids (kids.nationalgeogrpahic.com) and the Exploratorium (exploratorium.edu).
3. Visit places where your children can become fascinated by STEM related phenomena and talk about things that fascinate them. People learn best by having experiences and then making sense of them with a guide. Visit your local observatory or aquarium, but don’t just visit. Visit and talk with one another about your experience.
4. Read and explore STEM topics that you are interested in. Are you interested in the science of cooking? Read about that. Are you interested in the physics behind your favorite sport? Read about that. Developing and exploring your own interest is a natural way to build a family conversation about STEM topics.
5. Finally, see the science in their thinking. When my oldest son was small, our refrigerator was covered with magnets. Rather than playing with the magnets the way they were intended, he began taking the magnets and trying to stick them to other surfaces in the kitchen. He tried to stick them to oven, to the cabinets, to the dishwasher, to the trashcan . . . I was so excited when I saw him do this! I said, “Oh my! You’re conducting your first experiment!” In my zeal I explained the difference between conductors and insulators. We tested the magnets together. You probably don’t know all of the science in the things that make your child curious, but take time to try to see how their curiosity is really a math problem or how there is a creative solution to their need to reach something on the top shelf, or how making a paper airplane fly faster is really an engineering problem. Then, learn the language of the problem together, investigate solutions and talk about it together.
You can help prepare your son or daughter for the push toward STEM education. Start small, develop creativity and curiosity and before you know it, you’ll have a little engineer in your midst.