STEM education refers to science, technology, engineering and math subjects that are arguably the most important for children to learn now. STEM education is drawing more and more attention and there are programs, museum activities, classes, and camps that offer STEM learning.
The world needs more innovators and scientists and STEM education holds the key. Building robots, rockets, and other contraptions help children become problem solvers and creative thinkers and may help them in the future.
Children Have a Chance to Learn Their Natural Capacities
Many people still believe children can’t do STEM learning because they should learn the basics first. However, you shouldn’t underestimate young children because they are capable of doing, at a developmentally informed level, many projects that high schoolers do.
For example, they can make observations, draw conclusions, and carry out investigations and experiments, collect and analyze data, and use their findings. Children as early as the first year of preschool can do simple systematic experiments.
It may sound unbelievable, but babies, only several hours after birth, can experiment with causes and effects. For example, they put their own fingers in their mouth and realize they feel better. Toddlers push their cups off the edges of their chairs many times in a row to test gravity and older children want to understand why their favorite clothes no longer fit and they can keep track of the fair distribution of their favorite snacks.
STEM is Beneficial for all Children, Regardless of Their Skills
One of the most common myths is that STEM is only necessary for certain kinds of children – those who really love or are naturally gifted in STEM subjects. In fact, STEM is beneficial for all children, regardless of their knowledge and interest fields.
Just think about it: when we learn something new, our brain can use this knowledge to solve problems that are more complex, meet challenges, and learn even more new skills. STEM learning can help in many ways, such as when children collect evidence, analyze situations, and solve scientific problems; they acquire knowledge and skills in many different areas that can be used now and later in life.
For example, do you know that STEM is linked to language learning? The truth is, early STEM learning results in higher literacy and language outcomes, and the reverse works as well. If you want to increase your child’s spatial abilities, you should provide more exposure to spatial language during block play in early childhood.
Moreover, reading skills and math skills at kindergarten are predictive of reading skills in middle school. STEM teaches children about the world around them and how everything works, which is crucial for reading comprehension when children are old enough to sound out everything they meet.
Introduce Children to STEM As Early As Possible
Another very common myth is that children only learn in a classroom and not in museums and libraries where children just “have fun.” However, just as children need to be immersed in a language to learn it, they also need to be given different opportunities in many different places to master STEM subjects.
STEM learning is like a charging station that powers up your child’s learning. If you allow your children to have more opportunities to learn STEM, you will see their interest and fluency in these subjects. Unfortunately, the current system is patchy and that’s why many children have no interest in STEM, which has consequences for their future lives.
You can combine formal and informal learning in a very easy way. Just encourage your child’s engagement in STEM learning. Parents are the biggest influence in children’s lives so they can help bridge in-school and out-of-school learning, as well as track and adjust their learning experiences.
For example, parents can improve the quality of in-school learning by engaging in helpful activities at home or outside the home, such as going to the library with STEM recourses, taking a family trip to a STEM museum, or enrolling the child in STEM after-school projects and activities (such as a coding club). Children need to feel that their parents support them because it has a positive effect on children’s participation in science activities.
Parents and Teachers Have a Big Influence on Children’s STEM Outcomes
Many parents think if they don’t have an interest in STEM, they can’t support their child’s STEM learning. For some reason, both teachers and parents get scared by math and science, and many feel nervous and anxious about supporting a child’s interest in it. Many parents, for example, don’t feel confident in their math and science knowledge, so they think they can’t support these activities at home. Unfortunately, these beliefs have a huge impact on little children. When adults think it’s too hard or isn’t interesting at all, children pick up this behavior and start believing it themselves.
The good news is that you can support your child even if you aren’t a STEM expert. The truth is, one of the main things you can do for your child is to model curiosity and engagement in everything that happens around you. Ask more questions and demonstrate interest and you will become a guide and co-learner. By encouraging your child being curious, you help them stay motivated and be willing to experiment and explore.
Ask a lot of questions and when a child asks something, don’t feel pressured to have the right answer. Be willing to learn and participate in finding the right answers. That’s the foundation of STEM learning that will help your child solve problems in the future.
When parents believe common STEM myths, children can feel it and lose interest in these subjects. So help them stay motivated. STEM is beneficial for everyone when starting early. Children need opportunities to explore the world around them and you can support their progress. Be confident and have fun exploring STEM with your little kids.