Have you lately been hearing about STEM and how important it is for the future of our children? STEM education is gaining traction in the schooling system but there is still a long way to go. In this post, I want to share with you some information about STEM education and the reasons I believe parents should be supporting STEM learning at home.
Let’s Start with the basics, What is STEM?
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is currently being used to define a methodology or educational practice that combines these disciplines into an interdisciplinary approach to learning the subjects. The concept is widely extended, however, there is still a long way to go for integrating this methodology into every school. Lack of resources is one main issue for supporting this educational method. But don’t worry! There are ways you can promote and use STEM learning at home!
Why is STEM Learning Important?
You will read everywhere that STEM is mainly important because of its professional relevance in our current technology-driven society. And this is true, however, it is not only about the future job market. Learning through a STEM approach means applying STEM skills and combining them to solve real-life problems. Contrary to popular belief, it does not only help children develop science and math skills but it also works on their so-called 21st-century skills. Critical thinking, analytical and organizational skills as well as creativity and communication are just some of the skills that go hand in hand with learning through a STEM methodology. It is inquiry-based, meaning it aims to answer questions, and therefore helps children nurture their innate curiosity and love of learning.
So, in other words, STEM learning is a way to prepare children to tackle real-life situations, where problems cannot be clearly divided into separate school subjects and this is where the importance really lies.
Reasons to Support STEM Learning at Home
By exposing your children to STEM activities and experiences you can help them reap the benefits of this educational approach and have fun at the same time! Because discovering how the world works and solving its problems is motivating and engaging. And doing it from the comfort of your home has many additional benefits that support this educational style. So without further ado here are my top 5 reasons for supporting STEM learning at home:
1. STEM Skills are an Important Toolkit for the Future
STEM learning will offer your child a way of understanding how the world works. Your child may not become a super scientist or the best engineer, but with just a little bit of STEM knowledge their mind will open up to a whole new level of awareness about their surrounding that will help them solve problems, make informed decisions and navigate a technology-driven future. By giving your child a chance to experience STEM learning, they are gaining crucial and relevant skills not only for their future professional life but also for their everyday life and this, I believe, is definitely something that should be promoted at home.
2. Family Involvement is Key
You are your child’s first teacher and they will continue learning from you during their whole life. Research shows that parental engagement in education is associated with a positive impact on student achievement. And especially with challenging subjects such as science or mathematics, it becomes even more crucial that parents support STEM learning. Engaging with your kids in meaningful STEM experiences might just give them that extra motivation to explore the world and become lifelong learners. It might also help them do great in school 😉
3. Home is meant to be a Safe Space
Away from the pressure of school systems and evaluations. Research and many educational theories support the idea that mistakes are great teachers and part of the learning process. However, with schools heavily relying on testing and grades, mistakes can sometimes become a sign of failure and cause stress. This creates a negative impact on the learning experience.
At home, you can allow children the chance to experiment without being evaluated or being judged by teachers or peers. We learn from our mistakes and in STEM this is oh so much more relevant! In the real world, you don’t solve problems on the first try; you try, fail, learn, try again and so on and so forth. You might even find something you weren’t even looking for. Some of the world’s greatest discoveries were “mistakes”. So coming back, home is a safe space to let your child learn that mistakes are ok and part of the joy of learning.
4. Home allows for Positive Emotional Connections
Research in neuroscience has shown that there is a direct link between emotion and cognition. This means that whenever we learn something we associate it with a particular emotional state and the sensations that this generates. If there are positive sensations associated to learning something, we are more motivated and it is more likely that we will continue learning. A loving home with caring parents is a safe space, so it is easier to create positive emotional connections to STEM. Through non-academic experiences, children are able to connect STEM to something fun, that nurtures their curiosity and their thirst for knowledge. And it is always a plus to feel happy and motivated about what you are learning and not frustrated isn’t it?
5. Home provides a Perfect Space for really Experiencing STEM
STEM education is about connecting the knowledge from these separate subjects and bringing them together to create or solve anything. And what better way is there to learn than a hands-on approach? I bet many of you are familiar with the oriental phrase (and it’s numerous variations):
“I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand”
The brain learns through associations and when it is actively involved in the learning process it is more effective. It is so important for your child’s learning, to learn through experiences. To connect what they are learning to the real world. To involve their senses!
However, STEM is a huge topic and schools need to follow the curriculum. Chances are that lack of time and resources force teachers to skip great chances at experiential, hands-on learning. But you can do this at home and provide teachable STEM moments through active and hands-on experiences. These experiences will allow your child’s brain to make the necessary associations for more effective learning.
Bonus Reason! STEM is Fun For Parents too!
All in all, supporting STEM learning at home has many benefits. But let’s face it, you also want to have fun with your kids. And that’s what’s so great about STEM activities, they actually are quite fun to do as a family! You get to connect with your children, explore and learn together and spend some quality family time. So check out some of the activity posts in this blog and turn your home into a STEMful space!
For more information about STEM and how to transform your STEM activities at home, check out these posts:
Check out other fun STEM activities to sneak in some STEM learning:
- STEM activity: Build a pyramid and learn about shapes
- STEM experiment: Scientific method float or sink activity
- DIY math game with playdough
- STEM project: Engineer a house out of natural materials
- STEM challenge: The Tower of Random Things
- Sensory STEM jello experiment
- STEM water play: 8 fun activities to try this summer
- STEM Road Trip Experiment
Happy STEM learning!