This post was sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club of America as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.
I’m a parent educator and mother of three children. Education, learning and intellectual exploration has been emphasized in my family for four generations. Each generation has committed to sacrificing to provide a better education for the next generation. I’ve continued the practice of encouraging lifelong learning in my children. Developing an interest in science, technology, engineering and math “STEM” subjects can start at a very young age and can lead to a passion for these subjects and result in meaningful careers. Jobs in STEM-related fields are projected to grow nearly twice as fast as other career fields by 2018. A career in STEM fields hold amazing opportunities for our children.
As a parent educator, I worked purposefully to encourage my children’s intellectual development (along with their physical, emotional and spiritual development) from the time that they were born. A big part of encouraging their intellectual development was exposing them to STEM-related activities. Luckily, it’s easy to find really cool and interesting STEM activities to do with children of all ages. All three of my children have excelled in their math and science classes and extracurricular activities. I know that a big part of their success has been the exposure to interesting activities and our ongoing encouragement. My children have built airplanes and propulsion devices to enter in science competitions. They did very well in the competitions. I wish I had video of the competition events, because it’s both amazing and really cool to see what young children can create, build and successfully operate.
Tips to Encourage Lifelong Learning in STEM
Model an Interest in STEM – Your child is strongly influenced by your words and your actions. Make a conscious choice to model an interest and support of STEM. Don’t say things like, “Oh, I’m not good at math” or “I don’t like science, it’s too hard.” Find positive aspects that you can model for your child.
Encourage Both Girls and Boys – Often girls are not supported or encouraged to follow a passion for STEM interests. Be purposeful in encouraging both your daughters and sons in STEM interests and activities. There are many scholarships available for both girls and boys in STEM-related fields. Careers in STEM-related fields are well-paying and numerous. My daughter’s best friend in elementary school was encouraged in her interest in science and she is now majoring in physics and shares facinating ideas for those interested in science but not necessarily studying it. She has an amazing career in front of her in part because her parents encouraged her interest in science at a young age.
Discuss STEM in Everyday Life – Look for everyday opportunities to point out how you are using STEM principles in your activities. Discuss math and chemistry principles while cooking dinner. Discuss physics when you’re scuffing up the soles of your new shoes so you don’t slip. Discuss science principles when caring for pets.
When my son was in kindergarten, he wanted to have a frog as a pet. We did research together about frogs, amphibians, how to care for a pet frog and how to build a natural habitat home for a pet frog. Later when my son was in third grade, he wanted a snake as a pet. He received an emphatic, “No.” from me. So he researched other reptile pet options and convinced me to allow him to have a leopard gecko. He researched how to care for a leopard gecko and knew more about the differences and needs of different types of reptile pets at age 8 than I will ever know.
Choose After-school STEM Activities – When choosing after-school activities with your child, encourage STEM-related activities. Many schools have activities like Science Olympiad, Odyssey of the Mind, rocket clubs, LEGO clubs, computer clubs and more. You can also find computer and coding classes offered in your community.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America My.Future program delivers programming that sparks the interest in STEM-related areas in kids and teens by encouraging them to explore STEM topics that interest them. Boys & Girls Clubs have been leaders in out-of-school time programming for more than 150 years. Research shows that out-of-school programs, like MY.Future, can increase knowledge and interest in STEM fields and careers. With the the projected growth in STEM jobs in the U.S., , children and teens need to develop these STEM skills to compete in a global economy. You can learn more about the Boys & Girls Clubs of America My.Future Program at their website.
Exposure to STEM activities – Seek out family activities for your child that involve STEM principles. Instead of another trip to a Florida or California amusement park, take a trip to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida or the NASA Ames Research Center in California. Instead of seeing yet another over-commercialized movie, visit your local children’s science museum. Look for a local model rocket club or radio-controlled aircraft club in your area. There are many STEM activities that are fun and interesting right in your own community.
Do Fun Age-Appropriate STEM Activities – There are thousands of activities for children of all ages that support STEM learning. You can find STEM activities for children online or check out books at your local library. Look for fun activities you can do together with your child. Fly a kite. Build a model rocket. Even activities like creating your own special effects DIY blood from household ingredients can teach science-related principles. STEM can be fun and wacky in addition to interesting and challenging.
Discuss STEM Careers – Share STEM career opportunities with your child. Being a paleontologist, designing computer games, being a pilot, being an astronaut, designing prosthetic limbs, developing new cell phones are all really cool (especially to kids) careers that use STEM skills and knowledge. Children are naturally interested in careers associated with topics they find fascinating. Build on that fascination to encourage a lifelong interest in STEM subjects and careers.
Introduce Your Child to Adults Working in STEM Careers – Find people that you know or that work in your community that are in STEM-related careers. Meeting and knowing people who work in STEM careers make having one of those careers real to your child. It’s also a great way to find more opportunities for your child to learn about possible STEM careers. Most people working in STEM-related fields are eager to encourage younger students’ interests and foster the next generation in their love of STEM fields.
How does your child feel about science, technology, engineering and math? What can you do today to encourage a passion for STEM-related fields and careers?
Parenting Tips from a Mother of 3 and Parent Educator