The team at educational building toy company Click-A-Brick agree with expert tips to get children interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. In a recent television segment, Burns and McDonnell Foundation director Julee Koncak provided tips on how parents can engage their children and get them excited about studying STEM subjects.
Among the tips Koncak offered were buying building blocks for young children, giving them science and engineering based toys to play with and performing simple science experiments with them at home that they can do with household objects and ingredients.
Koncak says STEM jobs are growing at seven times the rate of non-STEM related jobs, yet less than 20 percent of high school students say they plan to pursue careers in STEM-related industries. Getting children interested in STEM subjects early is important, says the director of the foundation, which is an arm of the Burns and McDonnell engineering firm.
The first step in getting children interested in STEM fields is to buy them an educational building toy, Koncak suggests.
“It’s just a great toy all around and it’s a great use of creativity,” she said. “It’s hands-on and has the building component. It’s just an all around good toy for the initial engagement of STEM activities.”
This assessment of building toys and their impact on children has Click-A-Brick Co-Founders Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza nodding in agreement.
“We couldn’t agree more with Julee’s recommendations for getting children interested in STEM subjects,” Smith said. “We love the first suggestion for obvious reasons. Building toys are not only educational, but as she points out, they’re hands on and they provide that tactile element that kids love so much. Kids who love to build — and that’s just about every kid I know — will be encouraged when they realize that in the future, what they build with the blocks, they can actually have a hand in building for real. That kind of knowledge, when you pair it with educational play, really empowers a child to develop and pursue interests in STEM fields.”
But, the pair of toy entrepreneurs say they like Koncak’s other suggestions equally as much, noting that building blocks can themselves be the building blocks to creating interest in STEM fields for children.
“What Julee presents is a natural progression for a child,” de Gorostiza said. “A parent can start with simple building blocks and then progress to the more scientific building sets where kids are actually putting together circuits to make a light turn on or something. Then, they can progress to doing their own little experiments in the house. This last step involves them gathering all the materials they need and creating a little scientific demonstration with them. Kids just need to realize that they have the power to do something that they don’t even realize they are capable of and that can be the spark that ignites the fire for learning these important STEM subjects.”