STEM is a big buzzword in education and the community at large. The reason being that an appreciation and understanding of science, technology, engineering and math subjects will prepare students for future pathways and careers with 21st century skills. The earlier children are exposed to these topics, the less intimidating they become. The Teachers on Call team knows this from first-hand experience tutoring students who feel overwhelmed with their studies in math, general science, physics, chemistry, biology and computer science, just to name a few STEM subjects. This is why we've rounded up suggestions on how to help students thrive.
We all want our children to be successful and do well in the subjects that make up the STEM category. It can take a little bit of work in some situations to encourage students to love STEM activities, but liking STEM activities is the first step towards children learning to excel in them! Read on to learn some ideas for encouraging further involvement and participation.
Here are 6 tips to help your child foster an interest in STEM education.
Make some of the STEM activities hands-on (or at least eyes-on)
Hands-on STEM activities are especially great for smaller children, because it helps with hand-eye coordination and eyesight. However, even teens in high school can get some massive benefits from hands-on STEM work because it makes the activity more engaging and it often showcases practical applications. Don’t believe us? Outdoor fieldwork is a great way to practice trigonometry and physics!
You can also check around for opportunities and exhibits in the community. There are many STEM activities, demonstrations, and projects you can find at local universities and museums that can fire the imagination of children of all ages. For example, the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa has been doing demonstrations with pyrotechnics and liquid nitrogen, including a display of superconducting and magnetic levitation!
Gamify STEM practice and activities.
If your child ever used some of the gamification math apps, you may already be aware at how effective making a game out of a more ‘boring’ chore like practice questions can be. Feel free to use our linked list of apps to get started, but don’t stop there! You can gamify just about anything.
Try making scavenger hunts out of outdoor STEM activities, or pull the cards from your old Trivia Pursuit game in the closet and do some pop questions out of the Science and Technology category whenever you’ve got a few minutes of downtime. You can also find that STEM activities like Math Club at school are also gamified, and might be surprisingly fun for your child to participate in.
Do you have a child who loves the outdoors? Then get outside and lean on mother nature for some math and science lessons with educational nature walks. According to math trail experts like Ron Lancaster, professor emeritus in mathematics education at the University of Toronto’s OISE, taking a nature walk every season is a unique way to connect math and science to daily life. STEM subjects are found all around us in the natural world, all you have to do is look!
Give your child choices in picking STEM activities because it’ll show you where they think they excel.
We all want to do our best in shoring up where we feel our child needs more help. But it’s equally important to let them do fun things in a subject they’re great at. The reason they’re good at it is because they’ve already formed an interest in it! (You may have already noticed that beyond the three-year-old phase, children can be notoriously difficult about communicating their likes, dislikes, and interests, especially when it comes to school and learning.)
Letting a child pick some of the STEM activities not only lets them shine and indulge in something they may like a lot, it helps them show off their skills to you as the parent! So don’t forget to show your own interest and praise.
Reinforce that getting wrong answers is okay!
The age of social media tends to emphasize and encourage the habit of never admitting failure or mistakes, and one of the most important things we must do as parents is help our child understand the powerful learning tool that is “being wrong.” Being wrong (sometimes) is a time-honoured part of the scientific method. It is the first step towards asking questions about what went wrong and why.
A great recent example of this is an experiment that was designed by a Canadian elementary school and run by NASA to test whether space travel would affect epinephrine or not. NASA learned that pure epinephrine turned into something toxic when exposed to ionizing radiation. Some of our greatest and most interesting inventions throughout history were accidents or failed experiments. That’s how we got vulcanized rubber, penicillin, pacemakers, Post-it Notes, Velcro, Play-doh, tea bags, x-rays, microwaves, bubblewrap and much, much more. So, it’s a great lesson for all of us: don’t be afraid to fail!
Encourage questions that help students learn more.
When failure, mistakes, or accidents happen, asking questions about went wrong is how we learn to do things right – or sometimes learn something we never even knew before. We learn more from being wrong than we do from being right! And often this is because we don’t question how success was achieved.
But even in the context of something like math practice, asking questions is a helpful way to find errors in procedure, and that’s a great way to permanently correct those errors!
Be patient fostering an interest in science and math!
It may take a while to encourage your child to learn to even like doing STEM activities, much less learn to excel in them. But a little patience, and exploration of options will go a long, long way!
Good luck joining your child on their STEM adventure at home and in the community. Should any additional support be needed with homework and test preparation in STEM subjects like math, general science, calculus and chemistry, the Teachers on Call tutoring team is always here to help!