Education, Kids, Parenting

Getting Kids Enthusiastic About STEM: What Parents Need to Know

This is a guest article. Author details are below

Getting Kids Enthusiastic About STEM:  What Parents Need to Know

I run a nonprofit that gives teachers hands-on workforce experience through summer fellowships at Silicon Valley corporations. I’m also the parent of an 8-year-old son who, like most kids, has wonderful natural curiosity about the world. So I believe it is critically important for us to instill our kids with a love of learning to help them prepare for an uncertain future.

By some estimates, 85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. This means how our children learn is rapidly becoming more important than what they learn.

To succeed, they will need to become adept at critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, creativity, and persistence, as well as exploring cross-disciplinary questions and problems that may not have a single “right” answer.

One of the biggest things parents should understand is that STEM is not an isolated set of subjects or a pile of facts. Engaging students in STEM learning is about building a set of skills that allows them to think like scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians. So it’s not a matter of “being good at STEM” as discrete subjects, as much as building ways of thinking and learning that allow students to succeed in any context.

Our organization, Ignited, has developed a list of seven “Characteristics of Active STEM Learning.” Parents can use this as a guide to engage kids in activities that build on their natural curiosity and interest in how the world works:

  1. Learning should be grounded in real-world problems or phenomena that kids care about.
  2. Kids take ownership of their learning, including planning and carrying out investigations.
  3. Kids collaborate and connect with peers.
  4. Kids experience and learn from failure, to understand it is a critical component of STEM learning.
  5. Kids identify key questions and/or define problems for investigation.
  6. Kids use mathematical and/or computational thinking.
  7. Kids create models, construct explanations, and/or design solutions based on evidence.

Ultimately, STEM education is about preparing students to take ownership of their own learning, so they will be able to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Every child has the capacity to do this. As parents, let’s encourage our kids’ curiosity, regardless of their interests, and help them find new opportunities to grow and learn.

About: Shari Liss is CEO of Ignited. The Silicon Valley nonprofit awards teachers fellowships at top companies and universities so they can inspire and prepare students to become the next generation of innovators. Learn more at www.igniteducation.org.

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