With the ever-growing importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, it’s essential to have the right tools for getting kids excited about engineering. While many of these tools are becoming popular in academic environments, parents can also enhance an at-home experience with new conversations and activities. Starting your interaction with STEM concepts doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when considering the following suggestions for creating a learning environment at home!
Start a Conversation
The first step in creating any learning environment is starting a conversation. This presents an opportunity for children to both ask and answer questions about new and unfamiliar topics. When opening channels for STEM communication, think about starting small with easy questions about common experiences. Giving your children the freedom to interact and discuss STEM concepts at their comfort level will encourage deeper exploration in future discussions. Expanding on everyday interactions is often a great place to start, such as asking your children how they think light switches work behind the kitchen wall or how a computer remembers their video game progress. By exploring different topics that relate to everyday life, and encouraging conversations that invite questions, we can help begin a gradual acceptance of STEM concepts without immediately pushing academic success.
Make Real World Connections
Once you have started the conversation, another great way to expand on STEM topics at home is by making real world connections fun! Building projects that both entertain and inform can help your children apply important concepts to the outside world. These projects are easy to find, with countless online resources for some of the easier makerspace boards, and simple to replicate when following the hundreds of online tutorials. Working with products that inspire storytelling possibilities can also encourage positive associations that may develop through future exposure to STEM.
Don’t Overdo It
One of the most important things to remember when introducing STEM concepts is not to overdo it at home. Creating an exciting and enjoyable experience is often the most important strategy for keeping interest in STEM. This can be accomplished by providing assistance with questions that come up, or pointing kids in the right direction to find help, and taking breaks when needed. Sometimes restarting with a different problem-solving perspective can relieve the frustrations we all face when starting something new and prevent total rejection of STEM exposure. Relating projects to things your children already enjoy, such as creating a light-up musical chest that reflects their favorite video game, can be another way to avoid early burn out. Starting with basic engineering projects, such as those that use circuits and microcontrollers, can help invite a positive learning experience only improved by learning together.
Whichever approach you take to introducing and exploring STEM topics at home, make sure that the involvement is rewarded. Making STEM participation into a special activity or family outing can be wonderfully effective and encourage positive learning relationships. Researching special outings like limited-time museum exhibits or hopping aboard a visiting Maker Bus (search Google to find one near you!) can present exciting opportunities for future discussion and contribute to the next generation of STEM students!
Whether you’ve already begun integrating STEM into everyday experience, or you plan on introducing topics soon, let us know what you’ve done to inspire your children to participate in STEM with the comment section below!