What is STEM for kids? An Introductory Guide

Curiosity is the force that guides discoveries.

Much to the luck of humanity, curiosity starts at a very young age. The result – modern technology to make life easier, space exploration that pushes the boundaries of science and engineering, and discoveries that redefine the very essence of our existence. All these things start from the juvenile mirth that is curiosity.

Why is the sky blue? Why do clouds float? Is Santa Claus real?

Children get the curiosity bug as soon as they learn how to speak. When the day comes that they grow into kindergarten or preschool, parents are sure to hear questions like these more and more every day. This wide-eyed appetite passion for learning about the world that surrounds them are the building blocks for their understanding as they grow and precursors to the molding of their aspirations. As parents, some of you may have caught yourselves wishing that you understood more about the inner workings of the world so that you could give a satisfying and equally magical answer to your curious tots.

However, in recent years, it was found that despite the insatiable curiosity of children’s young minds about STEM topics, this exciting thirst for knowledge has the tendency to fade as years pass and they get older. This presents a timely concern as careers that involve science, technology, engineering, math, the pillars that makeup STEM, has become increasingly important. As STEM pursuits become increasingly vast and span a great part of the nation’s current and future economy, there is an intensifying need to keep this spark of interest strong from early learning stages to adulthood.

Thus the importance of STEM for Kids. STEM for Kids are activities specifically designed to nurture early curiosity that empowers a child’s capability to innovate, be technologically savvy, and understand and recognize the how and why mechanisms and organisms work together.

Admittedly, however, distinguishing and discerning activities that nourish and develop STEM-centric stimuli for young minds may, sometimes, take a certain level of understanding to facilitate. To aid you in your journey to the full understanding of STEM learning for kids, this article will discuss what STEM is, its history, importance, and some activities that can help you gain a better handle of its nature.

What is STEM Education?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. These are the foundations of STEM learning that allow and enable minds to conceive discoveries, engineer the future, and reimagine life as we know it.

The theory behind STEM education is complex, but it can be simplified through real-life analogies. To understand, here’s a question you can ask yourself: What would make you interested in riding a bike?

More or less, the answer is likely to be similar to “reading a book about biking” or “learning how to bike” or maybe even “attending a lecture on biking” or watching videos on the experience of riding a bike. However, the experience of actually riding a bike and the positive recollection associated with the endeavor would probably ignite your passion better than the aforementioned options will. The memories will allow you to spark a desire to pursue it as an activity.

The logic of the theory on STEM Education is similar to this example. By nurturing a healthy exposure to STEM-related stimuli and giving children the chance to explore the related concepts, the development of a passion for STEM is drastically more realistic. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage young minds to consider STEM as their primary career choice.

STEM for Kids

Children are never too young to start learning about STEM. There are certain activities that can reinforce STEM learning even at a very young age. From legos to puzzles or toys that have various assemblies to explore can help develop a young mind and prime it for STEM learning ahead.

STEM education, in general, combines ideas that are typically learned from separate subjects. Even when taught in independently different classes, an aspect that allows STEM to thrive is the emphasis on the practical application of education to real-life situations.

The foundation of STEM classes is rooted in the fundamentals of problem-solving. The lessons of a STEM class revolved around finding solutions to real-world problems through project-based learning. Interestingly, one such way of developing these concepts is through art. This is where the concepts for the STEM variation, STEAM is based upon – adding the element of art to its activities. Artistic design has since become an important element of STEM because of the essential role that creativity plays in innovation.

This role that art plays in STEM learning manifests in activities like lego building or clay molding, often attributed to engineering and its layers of sciences, and simulating situations, which in the context of STEM for Kids, can manifest in role-playing or leisurely make-believe sessions with friends or parents.
One example of STEM activities that you can do with your kids is playing with legos or making sandcastles. With the use of customizable materials that can be molded according to whimsical volition. The activity is an integration of the enhancement of fine motor skills and spatial cognition, building structures with their hands in a simulation of how the world’s engineers and architects mold the skylines of Earth’s most beautiful cities.

With the right direction and strategic implementation, STEM education can, realistically, be integrated into any subject, grade level, and age. There will always be practical ways to embed STEM learning into a child’s growth. Quite obviously, science and math classes are sure to have elements of STEM learning but other qualitative endeavors can be given a STEM-grounded twist. One can even disguise simple science projects into magic tricks to maintain the attention span of young scientists.

The Importance of Early STEM Learning

Having STEM-based learning can pain dividends later in life. Aside from career and other aspirations, young minds that often undergo early STEM learning benefit from advanced levels of intellect. STEM aids young people in the development of many skills that help them assess the merits and demerits of their capabilities and resources. They are educated about methods and processes that help how to think critically as they solve real-world problems.

In the modern age, the wake of the digital revolution, education has evolved into a living organism that is no longer just about knowing the answers. It has become a long-winded dance of verification, truth-seeking, and critical thinking.

With millions of interpretations of the truth and their own versions of the answers a Siri, Alexa, Google, and a click away, the need for a broadened cerebral capacity has become the benchmark of education. These circumstances have morphed the very essence of education from just question and answer to adding a mandate for validation and evaluation of information. STEM learning seeks to address the demand for higher intellectual capacities, giving parents options, early in a child’s development, to subscribe to a thought process that has proven to produce extensively positive results.

As technology advances further and information has seemingly adapted a fast food processing mentality, the necessity for people of all generations to learn media and information literacy has developed into a fundamental virtue tantamount to the basic skill of reading and writing. STEM, while working best for children in their formative years, is also a driving force for people of all ages in empowering them to evaluate the information they consume, develop essential skills that help assess claims read off the data pool that is the internet, and to deduce its merits.

At a young age, through STEM education, young minds can be honed to think critically in their process of problem-solving and providing real-world solutions. With the nature of STEM learning being inquiry-based, the young curiosity children possess is rewarded with questions that allow them to learn more about the world and enable them to pursue their own answers.

STEM resources specifically made for kids are designed to spur and energize novelty by helping them learn fundamental proficiencies like analysis, logical investigation, and critical thinking. These are the foundations that make STEM education the premier school of thought for solving worldly problems and unearthing breakthroughs and discoveries.

One of the common misconceptions that have to be addressed is the notion that STEM learning starts at school. In fact, STEM benefits those who turn to early education. No one is young enough to learn through activities with STEM at its foundations. Young minds are shaped through playing and the utilization of their senses. Teachers have extensive and wide-encompassing options at their disposal to administer STEM-based learning.

A healthy and perfect regimen for STEM learning can be a mix of physical and mental abilities. Traditional methods of teaching can also benefit children as they are guided through early education. The use of the storytime methods and the integration of activities that stimulate creative exploration is a prime example of a traditional method that can be used in STEM learning. Parents can read the classics like “Three Little Pigs” and pair it with an activity that involves building a house of their own through a material of their choice. Another appropriate example would be to read “Humpty Dumpty” to the young minds and have them erect a wall strong enough to sustain the weight of a single egg. Through this activity, parents can incorporate an element of scientific investigation by guiding them as they use the scientific method to test out their perception of how certain processes work. Those who administer the activity can ask guiding questions like “Can this wall hold Humpty Dumpty’s weight?” To take the learning experience further, you can explore how they could improve their designs by providing input and building their strengths through an evaluation.

These activities both adhere to STEM values by integrating creative skills, asking questions, and using practical and pragmatic solutions to solve a problem.

STEM: For the Country and the World

The country and the world as a whole have shown a critical need for pursuing STEM careers. The United States of America, often regarded as the forerunners of science, technology, and innovation itself has shown a rising demand for STEM-minded professionals. In a study conducted by the World Economic Forum, the US is ranked 44th in the world in mathematics and science instruction. Out of the 71 countries studied by the PISA Initiative, the US placed 38th in Mathematics and 24th in the Sciences in terms of knowledge and skills.

There are vast and diverse career options in STEM-related fields. From the more apparent industries like pharmaceuticals, energy, programming, and engineering fields to the professions that people have found to be unrelated to STEM like network communication specialists and agricultural executives and operatives, the industries and markets covered by STEM-related education cover various essential trades that allow a society to flourish. It may come as a surprise to some people but STEM also covers, to some extent, finance, risk analysis, and even the athletics industry. Teaching and education itself, of course, deals with STEM concepts heavily.

When it comes to growth, the mathematical science group is forecasted to rise most – out of all the STEM-related occupations – at 28.2% from 2014 to 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The National Center for Education Statistics report also noted that STEM college graduates garner roughly $15,500 more than the average annual salary of $65,000.

It doesn’t take too much to go through a STEM-based education. From a young age, we have access to resources that can help us develop the young minds of the children of tomorrow. There is no need for the latest technology or the most updated computer software to create an environment for optimal development. Admittedly, however, technology swiftly develops through time. But it is important to point out that STEM is not reliant on technology. The true nature of STEM education lies in problem-solving and practical exposure to a life thoroughly prepared for technology.

The goal is to prepare young minds for the advancement and developments that would happen throughout their lives by providing them with a foundation that prepares them for responsible use of technology and setting their expectations on the path technology is taking for the future.

The very essence of STEM is about educating modern society about learning and adapting to the changes of technological progress. STEM empowers teamwork, communication, collaboration, and practical learning in an environment where failure and mistakes are lessons and not flaws.

Elena Jones

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