Hey, as a concerned parent, you want what will be the best for your child. While it is impossible to predict what will happen, you can safely say that interests in Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) will be a solid foundation for opening the doors in the future. STEM educational activities are the perfect way to encourage your child in these areas.
But how do you know that STEM projects are right for your kids?
The Benefits of STEM Education
All of the quality STEM activities encourage exploration as the experiences are open-ended. That means that your child can start with a project that begins with an interest in what happens when they mix things together. That simple, playful idea can lead your child into the depths of chemistry in many different areas, from types of paints, to effective fertilizers, medicines to cure diseases to the best materials to reflect heat on a space capsule. By dabbling in common kitchen concoctions such as mixing vinegar and baking soda to produce a chemical reaction, your child’s explorations can lead them to an in-depth knowledge of solutions. The more they experiment and learn about various substances, the more their understanding grows.
2) Problem Solving
Truly effective STEM play is rooted in solving problems. If kids are actively solving problems using their own resources, they develop higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). These include but are not limited to ideation, brainstorming, categorization, critical thinking, and reasoning.
Young Children: With a young child, the problem can be as simple as how do I build a tower that is taller than what my brother is making. Or what shapes fit in the space I have? From those playful explorations, your child can develop expertise in the shape of structures that distribute the forces.
School-Aged Kids: From a simple beam bridge, school-aged kids can use their knowledge of geometry to experiment with arches, triangles, and suspension to develop a very strong structure. Once your child understands the challenge of redesigning to increase the load the bridge will hold, the quest develops into a problem that demands research as well as experimentation. Examining how other people have solved the same problem, leads to further refinement of the underlying principles.
It is incredible to see how different kids solve some of the STEM problems. There are usually the obvious types of solutions that lead to an improved design. But the pursuit of solving a problem often leads to an innovative answer.
Our Sea Coasts are Flooding: A known problem the world is facing is that there will be increased flooding on along all of our coastlines. The question is, “How do we support the people who have homes in these areas?” Is the only answer to have them tear down their home and relocate to another area? Engineers are developing ways to take an existing structure and turn them into homes that float at certain times of the year. Kids are building models to explain their thinking in solving this problem. How can they redesign the home to be impervious to water and take the forces of the rising tide? Will they use floatation devices, hydraulics, or stilts to meet the challenge? What is the least expensive solution for countries that have millions of poor individuals living along the coast?
STEM Toys: There are many toys that promote engineering concepts. Building a variety of robots to perform different tasks teaches your child about the possibilities inherent in the materials. Often these toys come with plans to ensure success. Once your child has mastered the understanding of the basic components, then they are free to experiment to create their own designs.
To be successful at any endeavor, you need to embrace disappointments. With each failure, there is an opportunity for improvement. With many STEM challenges, the solution comes after much experimentation, patient observation, and redesign. Frequently the solution is the best answer to date yet. This attitude of constant refinement gives kids a way of experiencing resiliency. STEM challenges often require depth in thinking, a willingness to try many different directions, and a desire for the best possible outcome. Resiliency is a skill that kids can learn in the right circumstances.
Often the STEM challenges require the support of several individuals. Or the STEM activity can be extended to clubs, competitions, and connections across the world. Sharing ideas, teamwork, and living up to your responsibilities are all part of the experience. For example, there are many opportunities for your child to broaden their experiences with designing paper airplanes. There are competitions in towns, cities, areas and for world records. With a search on the internet, your child can reach out to other individuals who have the same interests and who might be interested in collaborating on working on STEM projects for kids.
Most kids are attracted to hands-on STEM projects. By playing around with the different aspects of a physical object or phenomena, kids visualize scientific or mathematical principles. This is much more satisfying than reading about the same concept. Explorations with the physical objects lead to a deeper understanding of concepts. For example, in a “Keep It Cool” exploration, kids will learn about the insulating qualities of different materials and the importance of filling the freezer space for efficiency. Your child could read all about theory, but it is much more exciting to experiment with the materials and reach their own conclusions when investigating STEM projects for kids.