Getting kids interested in STEM at any ageAugust 26, 2015
Although you might think that pre-school children are too young to be interested in STEM subjects there are actually so many fun things that you can do with them that helps to nurture their natural curiosity. Simple messy play with materials such as cornflour and water is something that most young children enjoy and there are so many educational apps available nowadays that you can really help to give them a head start. One of my favourite apps for the technology subject is the Bee Bot app which helps teach basic programming in a fun way. There are also lots of fun toys that are aimed to at this age group to help teach children about these subjects, Learning Resources is a great site to visit to find age-appropriate STEM toys and we loved their Gears, Gears, Gears set.
When it comes to children who have started school I have found that tying in learning to their interests makes life a lot easier. I came across a great example of this last week when I received a Star Wars Maths Workbook in a goody bag from an event I went to with my girls. Alison is a huge Star Wars fan and she was really excited to start practicing her Maths with the book we received. After all counting Ewoks is much more fun than apples.
Allow children to explore, ask questions and learn through their own curiosity using problem solving skills to investigate, observe and question learning through their own mistakes and successes.
Keep it simple – science doesn’t have to be difficult and complicated.
Take a hands-on approach, children learn much more if they can take part in the activity. Things like ice excavations, cornflour goo, painting on ice, sensory bottles and baking soda reactions are inexpensive, easy to set up, and great fun for kids of all ages.
As the children get older it is harder to get them interested in STEM subjects but it is really good to see that TV and the Toy Industry are also trying to tackle this problem. I recently went to a launch event for a new Netflix show called Project MC2 which shows four main stars using their brains and a pinch of science to save the day. The show is supported by a range of dolls that come with their very own experiments. The show is aimed at girls aged 8 and above and we really enjoyed it so I hope they make more episodes.
The Greater Manchester region includes 163 state secondary schools that are the main focus of the STEMNET programme in this area. They visit all of these schools to help them plan activities, challenges and events to get young people more involved and interested in STEM subjects by introducing them to some of the 1100 STEM ambassadors. STEM Ambassadors come from a variety of roles and are all volunteers who work with young people to enthuse them and get them interested in STEM careers. The Stem Ambassadors come from a variety of companies including the BBC and NHS. They aim to show young people that the subjects they choose to study can gain them access to a wide range of very important careers. As well as visiting all of the state secondary schools in the region they also work with primary schools when they request support.
Getting children and young people interested in STEM is something that I truly believe is really important. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths are what allow us to progress, whether with the latest technology making communication easier or the newest medicine saving lives or even faster modes of transport they are all really important. No matter what the age of your child they are never too young to become inspired by these fascinating subjects and you never know they may be a future scientist or engineer.