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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