I know parenting is a 24/7 job, especially during the formative years of your child. Ensure that your child has access to everything – from going to a top-notch school to having a laptop or iPad at home. This can be overwhelming, but the struggle doesn’t end here.
The early years of every child in the 21st century have become competitive, and their future has become even more so. One of the most effective ways to help kids stand out from the crowd is to nurture a knack for innovation and learn from the beginning. And no, just sending them to a great school isn’t going to cut it.
“I don’t like mathematics.”
“The science class is boring.”
How many times have you heard your child say something like this?
Unfortunately, the conventional educational pattern that is followed in most schools hasn’t been able to keep up with the momentum of innovation for more than a decade or so. This is where introducing your kids to STEM education comes into the picture.
STEM Education stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. If you think that these verticals are more appropriate for older students, you’d be amazed to know the impact STEM learning has on kids as young as five.
- A paper published by Carnegie Corporation of New York, back in 2007, says - “The nation’s capacity to innovate for economic growth and the ability of American workers to thrive in the global economy depends on a broad foundation of math and science learning, as do our hopes for preserving a vibrant democracy and the social contract with young people that lies at the heart of the American dream.”
- A brief by Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education also identify STEM Education as a powerful means of brain development and kids' overall growth.
- A survey by the PEW Research Center found out that STEM workers enjoy a pay advantage against non-STEM workers.
We are living in a digital age where the applications of STEM are innumerable. And if that’s not enough incentive, STEM education contributes to your child's overall brain development and analytical thinking.
Here are a few benefits of STEM education that make it critical for your child.
- STEM education induces problem-based learning among kids. Children don the role of engineers and scientists during STEM learning to investigate problems and construct solutions using technology and applying mathematics to real-world scenarios.
- STEM education builds resilience in young students. Through STEM education, kids get an environment that encourages them to try scores of things without the pressure of getting it right the first time. They recognize early on that repeated attempts and failure are integral parts of learning and success.
- STEM learning encourages teamwork. A significant part of STEM education revolves around task-based collaboration, which provides a unique opportunity for kids with various skill and capabilities to work and learn together.
So, how do you inculcate scientific thinking and a growth mindset in kids to prepare them for a technology-centred world?
Encourage Them to Ask What, How and Why Questions
A simple curiosity of “Why did the apple fall from the tree?” turned Isaac Newton into a widely recognized mathematician and physicist.
The basic foundation of STEM learning in young kids is based on challenging conventional thinking and encouraging good questions. One way to do this is by initiating such questions yourself.
A few sample questions that you can ask are:
- How does the wind move different objects?
- Why is the sky blue?
- How do pulleys and levers work?
- Why are stars so tiny?
- Why do we water plants?
The idea behind asking and encouraging your kids to ask these questions is to ignite curiosity and induce problem-solving from a young age. This can also be explained through the “love it and learn it” hypothesis – the more time someone spends thinking about and working on something, the higher the interest level is achieved.
Encourage a culture of exploration and asking such questions by taking your kids outside more often. Be proactive and take an interest in their homework and daily school learnings.
Young children are naturally curious and guiding them to ask the right questions can go a long way in getting them interested in STEM topics.
Play Logic Games
STEM is a way of learning and not another education model. Thus, to efficiently implement it, you must focus on developing a knack for analytical thinking and problem-solving in kids through everyday activities.
Logic games are a great and fun way to implement this.
Play puzzles, Monopoly, Hopscotch, LEGO, and other games that require a bit of simple addition, subtraction, logical thinking, problem-solving, and pattern matching with your kids. As they grow older, you can replace these with games like Chess, Sudoku, and Kakuro.
Logic games make it easier for kids to learn and apply scientific concepts by introducing them to key notions such as:
- Identifying patterns
- Sorting and arranging blocks
- Building structures
- Moving, rotating, and fitting things
Having said that, there is a thin line between encouraging kids to play these games and forcing them.
The conventional way of teaching subjects like math has led to developing a phobia called Mathematics Anxiety, especially among young students.
The idea should be to foster a love for technology and numbers in kids at a young age and not shove it down their throats. If your kids are reluctant to play logic games or solve puzzles, create a reward system or find other subtle ways of getting them interested.
Appreciate Effort Over Outcome
STEM education requires a more subjective approach. Instead of focusing on what is right and wrong, focus more on how your kids approach a situation or problem.
Show children the value of questioning everything they hear. Even “unanswerable” questions are valuable. Please encourage them to raise questions and find answers. This will boost their curiosity and self-discovery process.
In the conventional way of teaching in schools, children’s knowledge of a particular subject is measured by the marks they score in their exams. This might not be the best way of learning, especially when it comes to STEM education.
To get your kids interested in STEM, you will need to be less intrusive and give only passive guidelines – instead of instructions – to allow kids to investigate and experiment. Appreciate the effort they take to learn about a new topic and understand a problem instead of obsessing over the correctness or incorrectness of their results. We all know how Edison failed 10,000 times before he was able to perfect the unassuming light bulb!
Valuing kids’ efforts instils a healthy balance between you’re their EQ (Emotional Quotient), IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and PQ (Physical & Psychological Quotient).
Show Them the Relevance of STEM in Everyday Life
One of the reasons that most kids grow up disliking STEM subjects is because conventional teaching methods fail to show their real-life applications. No one wants to learn something that they won’t ever need (hello, History!) and more so when it comes to complex topics like mathematics, biology and chemistry.
By showing everyday applications and relating daily activities with STEM, you can help kids grow fond of math and science. How can you do this?
- Ask kids to mentally add the total price of things you bought in a supermarket.
- Can they identify all the patterns they see in the room?
- Tell them how a vacuum cleaner works as you let them clean the carpet (google it yourself first!)
Following such practices in the formative years of your child increases their interest in STEM subjects and inculcates strong problem-solving, analytical, and critical thinking skills.
We enrol our children in classes for dance, music, cricket, and whatnot, but when it comes to STEM education, most of us rely only on schools. This must change. Getting kids interested in science and technology is important given the rapid pace of innovation today. Knowledge of how things around them work plays a critical role in their overall development.
In a TED talk titled How Math Is Our Real Sixth Sense, Eddie Woo said, “Mathematics is a sense just like sight and touch; it's a sense that allows us to perceive realities which would be otherwise intangible to us.”
Couldn’t agree more, could we?