How to make STEM Learning a Way of Life
This post was sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club of America as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.
I have a daughter and two sons. One day, the mother of one of my youngest sons dropped by to return something and while she was here, standing in my living room, she asked each of my very young children what they were going to be when they grew up. My daughter already knew. She’d wanted to be a meteorologist since an F5 tornado hit our town when she was 4. My sons had no concrete plans. The lady then turned and asked me what I wanted them to be. My answer? Happy.
I meant that. I want them to be happy. I’ve always believed that happiness lies in really knowing yourself. Once you know you, you can figure out what makes you happy. For my children, it’s a life of discovery that makes them happy. For them, that discovery lives in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). STEM jobs in the U.S. are expected to grow nearly twice as fast as other fields by 2018. It’s important that kids and teens have the skills to compete in a global economy. Here are a few ideas about how to make STEM learning a way of life, and it’s fun!
First, I think STEM learning should start early. You can join your local science museums for year long savings or attend when they have free admission days to keep costs down. Taking time to explore these museums and going often gives children (and adults) time to really explore and learn. Plus, when you’re not rushed, because you can come back again later, it’s more enjoyable.
I took full advantage of our science museum membership, going often, seeing the related (and cool) IMAX movies and paying attention to what interested my children. When I heard them talk about things they enjoyed, I encouraged their interests by getting them books on the subject, taking them to places to see more of whatever the subject was, even creating theme related food. Hello, cloud and tornado cookies!
When we could, we traveled to places my kids read about in books, had done reports on in school, or were excited about for other reasons. This is my daughter looking at weather maps at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. We visited Colorado for her spring break because she was interested in their hard to predict, quickly evolving weather. While we were there, it snowed, iced, flooded and there was a tornado. Thankfully, we only got caught in ice and snow, which happened so fast as we drove to our hotel! For someone with a passion for weather, that experience was very informative. She’s making her dream of becoming a meteorologist come true and graduates this year! I’m so happy for her!
Even when you can’t travel far, there are usually local places that can help foster your child’s interests. For more than 150 years, Boys & Girls Clubs have been leaders in out-of-school time programming, and research has shown that out-of-school programs advance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge, and increase interest in these careers. They have a program called My.Future that sparks kids and teens interests in STEM by encouraging them to explore topics that already interest them. That’s exactly what I’m talking about! It works too.
Encouraging children to explore topics that already interest them definitely works. For me, telling my children what to be just wasn’t the way I wanted to operate. I believe that my role is to help them discover the world and find their true happiness. My oldest son just graduated and has chosen a STEM college where he will study computer science and physics. My youngest loves computers and is passionate about programming. He’s sure now that he wants to go into computer science. When he was little and had a passion for technology, I made sure that he had a science set, Legos and junior circuits sets. When he had questions, I found the answers. These are small things that helped foster his love. He later joined the Robotics club and they almost won the state championship. There are so many things you can do to make STEM learning a natural thing!
With after school and summer programs like the Boys & Girls Club of America My.Future platform, kids have the chance to discover and develop passions in science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM”)!
Find more information about the Boys & Girls Club of America My.Future platform here:
Boys & Girls Club of America My.Future Website