“The future of the economy is in STEM. That’s where the jobs of tomorrow will be,” says James Brown, executive director of the STEM Education Coalition in Washington, DC.
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard the term STEM at least once before — it stands for four key education disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. And educators and economists alike agree that it’s not just important to young students — it’s essential. So how can you prepare your child for success in a STEM world? Here, we’ll look at some of the most effective STEM teaching methods and demonstrate how they can be used both inside and outside the classroom.
STEM at Play
According to behavioral science investigator Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, play is an essential contributing factor to optimal child development. It’s during playtime that kids absorb, retain, and assimilate new information the most effectively. By these metrics, it goes almost without saying that the best way to introduce your child to basic STEM is through play. While that might initially sound like a daunting prospect, you’ll be amazed by how quickly your kids take to STEM principles when they’re presented through things like interactive games and toys. These can include anything from printable pattern maps (ideal for teaching the fundamentals of coding) to engineering-style challenges with craft sticks.
STEM in the Classroom
Although most schools have now made STEM a part of their core curriculum, you can advocate for your child’s educational future by taking an interest in how these early STEM lessons are being implemented in the classroom. According to a study by Microsoft, most girls have already lost interest in STEM topics by the age of 15, in part because of a lack of hands-on practice and practical application. By joining with other parents to encourage your school to pursue funding for STEM-focused field trips and guest speakers, you can make a big impact on how your child begins to perceive the value of STEM topics. If you’re an educator, you can also pursue grant resources to ensure that your students have every opportunity to gain the early exposure to STEM that is so vital in a millennial world.
STEM at Home
No matter how effective your school’s curriculum, it’s still important to make STEM a part of your child’s life outside the classroom. This can be done through involvement in local or national STEM organizations, many of which are aimed at making STEM fun for kids as early as pre-K. Check to see if there’s a Girls Who Code Club near you, for example, or get your kids involved in the Science Olympiad. A lot of these STEM-focused groups are free for lower income families and have already been proven to have a positive impact on how easily young students take to STEM-related topics.Whether at home, in the classroom, or on the playground, learning STEM fundamentals early on is sure to keep your kids ahead of the learning curve, giving them the fundamental tools they need for success both at school and in life. Do you have a favorite STEM teaching method, but don’t see it mentioned here? Let us know via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply leave a comment in the section below.