The worldwide shortage of Engineers and other technical jobs is likely to grow over the next decade. With this in mind, finding a path for more young people to engage with STEM subjects has become even more imperative. To understand this crisis a little better consider the following:
Economic projections point to a need for 1 million more professionals in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade.
- STEM jobs are growing at a rate faster than of jobs in other industries
- Many professionals currently working in STEM will soon retire
There is a worldwide challenge of having more STEM positions available than people to fill them. One long-term solution is to introduce STEM topics to children at an early age. Cultivating a love of STEM subject matter in a child is far easier than many would imagine. Children are inherently experiential learners. They are curious about how things feel, how things work and how they can interact with their surroundings.
Capitalizing on a child’s innate ability to investigate, while creating a positive learning environment in which they feel safe exploring, is essential to instilling a love of STEM. The following tips may be helpful to engage kids in STEM topics:1. Do not give in to the stereotype that girls are not good at math or science
This stereotype is damaging for many reasons but perhaps the saddest is that it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. When girls implicitly, and explicitly, receive repeated messages that they are not able to succeed in math and science, they believe those messages. Instead, find ways to help both boys and girls excel in math and science.2. Research fun engineering projects, toys, or games for kids
There are many ways that "play" can lead a young person to think about a career in in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. For example plank sets, circuit boards, solar kits, and robots are just a few of the hundreds of projects, toys, and games available for kids. Playing is learning and when introducing these kinds of activities to young children, you are helping to make positive associations with STEM.3. Encourage hands on, experiential learning
No book will give a child the feeling of staring into a shark’s eyes, the sense of touching a starfish, or the sound of a lion’s roar. Bringing children out into the world, especially to museums, aquariums, or zoos can foster a love of experiential learning. Also, the interactive elements of educational components in these settings are geared toward all learning styles. There are teachable moments everywhere. One can easily associate STEM concepts during a walk in a park, a trip to the grocery store, or a visit to the doctor’s office. Humans are wired to remember those things with which they engage directly. These kind of hands-on learning does not disappear after a test is taken!4. Relate everyday experiences to STEM topics
One does not have to look far for examples of STEM concepts in daily life. The math of banking, the science of cooking, and the technology of telephones – it’s all right there. Teaching kids STEM concepts through things they do everyday is a great way to spark a love of STEM.5. Focus less on grades
Both boys and girls struggle with mastering STEM concepts. Often students lose interest in what they are learning if they are not getting good grades. Providing a safe learning atmosphere, and placing more emphasis on learning and less on grades, helps keep students interested in STEM topics.
The more children are encouraged, and supported, in learning about STEM, the more likely they will continue studying STEM throughout their education; ideally, graduating and finding their place in an economy that is increasingly dependent upon their skill and expertise.
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