Experts Weigh In: How to Get Young Kids Interested in STEM

STEM is everywhere nowadays. It’s in the news, it’s in the schools, it’s in the White House and it’s in just about any plant you can think of.

(Uh … scratch that last one, actually. Wrong kinda stem.)

The STEM we’re talking about is:

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering &
  • Math

(Sometimes with an A for Art included to make STEAM.)

STEM careers are touted as being among the fastest growing fields out there and the United States government has a huge push going to get more kids interested in these fields and graduating with college degrees in these fields.

But, before kids even get to college, they need to get interested in STEM while they’re young. We’ve scoured the internet (and by scoured, we mean we took a few seconds to type some words into a search engine) for what experts have to say about getting children interested in STEM from an early age.

 HD Chambers – Alief Independent School District Superintendent

Don’t use the word “STEM” and give students hands-on projects to do.

“It’s almost like you’re tricking them. You’re not calling it STEM. You’re not even calling it science and math in some cases. But they’re in a position where they’re working together and they’re building something. At the end of that process they see what they built. If they’re fifth graders, and quite frankly, if they’re fifth graders or 10th graders, that’s how you introduce it.”

 

 Cameron Evans – U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Education at Microsoft

Use a different, more familiar word and encourage creativity.

“I would use the word ‘play.’ We need to have a lot more playtime and not just recess in schools. But kids can have [creativity] taught out of them. That’s one of the things that we need to make sure as they continue to grow in their academic career that they flourish in their creativity.”

 Rebecca VanderMeulen – Writer at Education.com and faculty member at West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Use the resources at your disposal to introduce STEM learning.

“The lack of resources in many schools and the misconceptions people have about the STEM fields means you might have to put some extra effort into encouraging your kids to explore them. But it will be worth the effort if it sparks your child’s curiosity.

Here are some places to look:

Libraries. Learning doesn’t have to cost money. Next time you take your children to the library, encourage them to borrow books about subjects that interest them. Maybe they’d like to know more about the cicada shell you found in the park or how to make paper airplanes fly farther.

Museums. Check out museums near your home and in cities you visit on vacation. Marvel at a planetarium show or walk through a life-size model of the human heart. Take the kids to special traveling exhibits.

Local colleges. Science and engineering departments at colleges – from community colleges to big-name universities – often host day-long programs for families to learn while having fun. Harrisburg University, for example, organized an event about the science behind making chocolate.

Summer camps. Does your child take apart the electronics in your house? She might love a computer camp. A kid who captures the toads in your yard would have fun during a summer program at the local zoo.

After-school clubs. A lot of schools have clubs for kids to have fun practicing science. Kids can work together to build robots or plant a garden.

Professional websites. Whether your child is interested in chemistry, physics, math, computers or weather, there are professional associations for adults who work in those fields. Most of their websites have resources for parents.”

 

Karen Myers – Associate Professor of Communications at the University of California Santa Barbara

Have children job shadow someone in a STEM career

“Students don’t learn enough about STEM careers unless their parents work in STEM areas, and the messages they receive from parents, teachers and counselors frequently fail to address how students think about and evaluate potential career paths. Once students get a detailed picture of what it’s like to work in one of these jobs, it can motivate them to overcome difficult obstacles and adopt a STEM job as a goal.”

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Mighty Machines Lands on Top 10 Best Building Blocks List!

We’re thrilled to announce that the Click-A-Brick Mighty Machines set has earned the No. 8 spot on wiki.ezvid.com‘s Top 10 Kids Building Sets of 2016. 

Check it out:

Isn’t that cool?

We here at Click-A-Brick are pretty proud of it.

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A Short History of Mermaids

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Today, we see mermaids everywhere, just not in the ocean.

They are on our coffee cups thanks to Starbucks’ usage of them in its logo and perhaps the most famous mermaid in the world, Disney’s Ariel, is all over the toy aisle and in children’s imaginations all over the globe.

But, mermaids used to be much more than just imaginary creatures. Many many hundreds of years ago, people used to actually believe they existed. To them, mermaids were as real as the ground beneath their feet.

Here, we take just a quick look at these fantastic mythical creatures and their history throughout folklore as compiled by Matt Simon for Wired.

Ea – About 4,000 years ago, Ea was the Babylonian god of the sea, he had the upper body of a human and the lower body of a fish. He was the inspiration for the Greek god Poseidon and the Roman god Neptune.

Atargatis – This ancient Syrian goddess was the first mermaid-like figure with the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a fish.

Nereids – The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote about these nymphs who were half human, half fish. However, he noted that the human part of them were still covered in fish-like scales. Pliny also wrote about sea-men who would climb up the sides of ships at night. The side of the ship with the sea-man on it would sink down in the water.

Sirens – From Greek mythology, these mermaids were evil. They could sing beautifully and their beautiful singing would captivate sailors so much that the sailors would stop their duties on the ship to listen to them. This would cause the ships to crash into rocks.

Click-A-Brick educational building toy for boys and girls1430 – In the Netherlands, some girls rowing around in a boat are said to have found a mermaid and took her home with them and gave her clothes. She could not be taught to speak, though, and remained a mute.

1493 – During the voyage of Christopher Columbus, he himself spotted what he believed to be mermaids near what is known today as the Dominican Republic.

16th Century – Olaus Magnus wrote that fisherman around Scandinavia said that if you catch a mermaid or merman, a harsh storm would develop instantly.

1614 – John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) claimed to have spotted a mermaid near what is now known as Newfoundland in Canada.

17th Century – French naturalist Guillaume Rondelet claimed to have gotten ahold of two sea creatures that resembled members of the clergy. The “sea monk” and the “sea bishop” were described in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana of 1817 as having some human features.Click-A-Brick educational building toy for boys and girls

18th Century to Present – Sightings of mermaids became less and less common as people started embracing science more and mythology less. Today, they are reserved for coffee cups and cartoons … and educational building block toys.

What ancient people believed to be mermaids were likely just sea mammals like manatees and dugongs … or maybe mermaids actually are real!

If you want a real mermaid, all you need to do is grab your Click-A-Brick Rainbowland set. You can make a mermaid and so much more!

We hope you had fun learning about the history of these fascinating mythical creatures.

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Milo the Lion is King of the Toys for Families with Deployed Parents

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There’s no shortage of military-inspired toys out there. Even our own Click-A-Brick 100-piece Army Defenders set has a military feel to it. The one thing that has been missing for a long time is a toy specifically for families of the military.

 
 

Having a parent in the military can obviously be difficult for a child, but toy inventor Hannah Sage aims to help make that absence a little more bearable with her toy Milo the Lion.

 
 

Milo comes with 24 tokens, which represent each week of a typical six-month deployment. Each week, a token is hidden somewhere in the family home and a clue appears on Milo’s screen about the location of the token.

 
 

Once the child finds the token, they plug it into Milo’s base to watch a prerecorded video message from the deployed parent. They then can record a reply video message for the deployed parent, who can access it on an associated website and also use the website to send videos to the family at home.

 
 

Isn’t that brilliant?!

 
 

Click-A-Brick Educational Building Toy for Boys and Girls

 
 

As you know, we’re firm believers that toys can serve a real purpose, namely helping to educate kids and helping them with their development.

 
 

With Milo the Lion, we see a toy serving a whole other purpose, one of comfort for children who really need it. Children of deployed parents are put into a unique situation and Milo will help them understand and deal with that situation better.

 
 

We see it as a sort of offshoot of the educational toy sector, as it can be used to teach children of deployed soldiers about what is going on with their parents and teach them about the places where they’ve been deployed to, among other things.

 
 

We’re hoping to see more toys pop up in this niche, as it is an area that is ripe for innovation. It presents toy makers with a problem to solve in connecting children and their deployed parents in some way and keeping it fun and engaging for the children. 

 

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5 Experts Give You 6 Ideas on Making Summer as Educational as it is Fun

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Summer is here and that means learning gets put on pause for two months until the kids go back to school, right?

 
 

Nope.

 
 

While it may not happen in classrooms, learning is definitely not put on pause throughout the summer. By keeping your kids brains going throughout summer, you’re helping them learn and develop (albeit in far less structured environment).

 
 

Here are six expert tips on how to keep your kids learning this summer (without even realizing they’re learning).

 
 

Patti Rommel – Director of Research and Development at Lakeshore Learning Materials

 
 
Click-A-Brick educational building toy for boys and girls
 
 

1. Set aside one night per week for family game night and choose games that require strategic thinking or that require using reading, writing or math skills.

 
 

The classic Jenga is always fun and who doesn’t like seeing all those blocks fall down? Scrabble Jr. and Monopoly Jr. are also recommended, as well as any treasure hunt style games.

 
 

2. Our personal favorite of these tips is to provide your children with building materials so they can construct whatever they like. Or, you can challenge them to build specific things.

 
 
 
 
 

Click-A-Brick educational building toy for boys and girlsBuilding toys like Click-A-Brick are ideal for this, of course. For older children, you could give them other types of building material like various cardboard boxes, tubes etc. and some tape. Or, if you think they can handle something a little more advanced, you can give them actual building materials like wood and nails. 

 
 

Barbara Dianis – Author of Don’t Count Me Out! A Guide to Better Grades & Test Scores PreK-12

 
 

3. Barbara suggests setting aside 15 – 30 minutes per day for reading. Take your kids to the public library so they can browse the books and choose the ones that interest them. Reading is more fun for kids when they get to choose what they want to read.

 
 

Click-A-Brick educational building toy for boys and girlsYou can keep track of how much your child is reading throughout the summer on a calendar. Make it more exciting by setting a goal for your children and letting them know if they reach that goal, they can do something really fun and extraordinary like going to the zoo or the water park or some other activity they don’t get to do all the time.

 
 

Claudia Guerere – Director of Assessment at Project Lead the Way

 
 

4. Create a discovery jar at the beginning of summer full of questions your children are curious about. Every day (or at whatever designated interval you choose) pick a question out of the jar to find the answer to.

 
 

The questions can be anything that your child can explore and find the answer to. Maybe it’s what kind of plants grow in your yard or how space travel works or how big the dinosaurs were. Whatever gets your child excited!

 
 

Dr. Daniel Welsch Program Director, Natural Sciences at American Public University

 
 

5. Turn your pool, lake or ocean outings into simple science experiments. One easy experiment is to see how far sound travels underwater. Ask your kids how far they think it will travel and then have them listen for the sound at various distances. A digital beep from a waterproof watch works well for this.

 
 
 
 

You can also experiment with how much you float before and after taking a deep breath or asking your kids why they feel more chilled on a breezy day than a calm day and talking about the explanations behind them. (For reference: you will float higher in the water after a deep breath because your lungs are filled with air like a balloon and you feel more chilled on a breezy day because the wind causes the water to evaporate faster off your body and this takes more heat away from you than if it evaporates slowly.)

 

 
 

Click-A-Brick educational building toy6. Geocaching is a fun activity that anyone can do. For the uninitiated, geocaching is like a treasure hunt. 

 
 
 
 

Go to geocaching.com, or download the app for Android or IOS. These little treasures can be found everywhere.

 
 
 
 

The app uses the GPS on your phone to guide you to the cache. Once you find it, you leave a trinket, take a trinket, sign the log, and then re-hide the cache for the next geocacher to find. This can lead to discussions with your kids about how GPS works and how it’s able to locate you on Earth using satellites orbiting the planet.

 

 
 

If you think geocaching might be a little bit too much for your younger kids (or they might not be interested in it), you could always try Pokemon Go, which is similar.

 
 

Summer isn’t when learning gets put on pause, it’s when kids get to learn the way they want to. Encourage them and make it fun for them.

 

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STEAM Camps Give Your Kids a Brain Boosting Bump in Summer

Click-A-Brick STEAM learning toy for boys and girls

 
 

Summer camps sure have changed a lot since we were kids. When we were just wee, the only type of camp was a nature camp where kids learned canoeing, horseback riding, swimming, archery and other outdoor activities.

 
 

Those were great times and we loved learning all those things. But, nowadays, there are different kinds of camps out there for kids that have different interests.

 
 

Here are just a few of the different kinds of camps available to parents to keep their kids not only entertained throughout the summer, but also keep them learning those Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) skills:

 
 

Sylvan Learning offers several different types of camps for children through its Sylvan EDGE camps. These camps include:

 
 
 
    • Robotics – Kids learn how to build robots with Lego and program them.
 
    • Coding for Kids – They get to make their own video games and animation.
 
    • Engineering Camp – Designing and building superstructures (well, small scale superstructures, anyway).
 
    • Fit4Algebra – Older kids learn all the ins and outs of math with letters.
 
    • Writing Camp – For the writers out there, this camp helps them hone their skills.
 
 
 

iD Tech, meanwhile, also has 21st century camps for kids all around the country:

 
 
 
    • iD Tech Mini – Students learn programming, video game design and more.
 
    • iD Tech Camps – In this camp, students learn programming, apps, game design, robotics, filmmaking, photography, 3D printing, and more.
 
    • Alexa Cafe – In this all-girls camp, young ladies learn coding, web design, filmmaking, game design, philanthropy, 3D printing, and more.
 
 
 

These are just some of the many many many camps available for children throughout the United States that focus on STEAM skills. You should be able to find some in your local area pretty easily as these camps are popping up all over the place.Click-A-Brick STEAM learning toy for boys and girls

 
 
 
 

Barbara Rowley of Parenting.com suggests that when parents choose a camp for their children, they get input from the kids about what type of camp they want to go to and do a bit of research on any camp they are thinking about sending their kids to, especially if it is of the sleepaway variety (although they should also do their due diligence for day camps, as well).

 
 
 
 

When choosing a camp, Rowley suggests checking for:

 

 
 
 
    • A good history.
 
    • An easily identifiable focus (sports, leadership, STEAM, etc) that is integrated into its programs.
 
    • An emphasis on creating community.
 
    • Well-trained staff.
 
    • An element of choice for kids over what activities they participate in.
 
    • A good communication plan for keeping in touch with parents.
 
    • A high standard of accreditation.
 
 
 

Have fun out there no matter what type of camp you choose!