In today’s tech heavy society, STEM education is of the utmost importance. What is STEM? It’s science, technology, engineering and math education. To some, the sound of these words together will send them running away (me with the math part for sure!!) but for today’s kids, these subjects are the basis of so many parts of their world: from technology in the classroom, to advanced common core math to living in a media based world. Hopefully your kids are getting lots of hands on fun with science, technology, engineering, and math at school, but chances are those classes aren’t enough to instill a true lifelong interest in these fields for most kids. As parents, however, there are a lot of easy ways we foster a greater love of learning and exploration in STEM subjects in our children- especially our daughters!
Why do I single out daughters when I talk about the importance of STEM? STEM was coined to address the current and future shortage of skilled workers in high-tech fields, and the inadequate education of some students in these areas. It’s thought that, by teaching these subjects together, in an inter-disciplinary cohesive approach, STEM education will become more relevant and fun, and will develop the sort of critical thinking skills needed in the high-tech workforce, both now and in the future. With this shortage, there’s even a bigger gap with females in these fields. Women sometimes only make up around 15-25% of workers in STEM related fields.
Why is this a problem? First off there’s no evidence that girls are less capable in these fields, but rather that they often ‘feel’ less capable, partly due to stereotyping. A lack of women in these fields means fewer female role models, both for current female STEM employees, and for girls still forming career choices. We know that tech centered jobs are the way of the future, and as a mother I wanted my daughters to feel they can venture down this path if they dreamed too.
If you have some girls at home interested in STEM topics, here are some tips to foster that love and help it to grow:
Relate STEM to everyday life
STEM doesn’t mean studying math flash cards or just working on a computer. There are so many ways STEM is apart of our everyday life. Help your girls become more interested in science or math by pointing out how STEM is apart of so many fun activities:
Cooking: Food science is one of the best kinds of science—experiments you can eat! Kids can learn about chemistry, practice their math skills, and learn plant anatomy and other science lessons all from the comfort of your kitchen. There’s tons of fun edible science experiments you can find online and even learning how to explain normal things, such as, what happens when water boils, why toast burns, or why you should melt butter if you want the cookies to be chewy- all of which are easy ways to sneak in math and science without being boring.
Learning about music or reading poetry: Poetry is rhythmic and really just music in text form, and music is tightly connected to math. You might point out this fact to your kids or just let them practice and read while learn math without even knowing it.
Shopping and banking: All of my kids love to buy things, and any time you’re dealing with money is a good time to teach about interest and percentages off, how to make quick calculations and estimates in your head, or how to make comparisons between two pricing options. Most of the math operations we do with our kids when dealing with money are simple, yet important ones.
Make learning about STEM relatable & fun
As with really any topic with kids (and most adults to be honest!) if they don’t think it’s interesting, they don’t want anything to do with it. Help your daughters interested in STEM by immersing them in it in a hands on way! Instead of focusing on a lesson, make it an experience.
Take trips to a museum or zoo. It doesn’t have to be a science museum in particular. Many children’s museums have lots of STEM exhibits and even sometimes have exhibits on the history of the area or perhaps a local art museums may offer an opportunity to learn about the history of technology or how things were made.
Play STEM toys and games with your kids. Thankfully finding STEM related games and toys are easy. Games like Minecraft and LEGO blocks are great ways to tie in engineering and tech into one. There are plenty of STEM robotics or coding kits online- the possibilities are truly endless!
Surround your girls with positive role models
Making sure your growing girls can see positive roll models in the subjects they are interested in is key to making them understand that their interests can turn into future careers! The old adage is that you can’t become what you can’t see. Take your kids to female doctors and dentists. Find out if any of the friends parents at school work in STEM, and then point this out to your child. Seek out books and movies that feature strong female STEM characters. If you’re a mother or female teacher reading this, don’t forget that you can be a positive female role-model too. Next time you need to drill a hole in the wall, do it yourself, and let the kids catch you doing it.
Another great way to promote STEM is by surrounding your daughter with plenty of books that have positive women role models. One book I recently came across that does such that and that my girls loved is WordFire Press’ Danielle, Chronicles of a Superheroine by author, inventor, and futurist Ray Kurzweil. This book, geared towards older kids and tweens, helps to teach young girls that anyone can change the world. Remember to teach your kids that you don’t have to be an adult to change the world. Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, tells the story of a precocious young girl who uses her intelligence and accelerating technology to solve humanity’s grandest challenges. Now if only we can find more courageous visionaries like Danielle!! One of the best messages in the book is perfect for kids: Change is waiting. Remind your children that even if we can’t start big, we can still start small. This new book will be released in January 2019- pre-order it now!
Fostering your daughter’s love of STEM subjects can be easier than you’d think. Expose them to the most you can whenever you can and let their interests take the lead! Having younger daughters, age 8 and 12, I’m not sure what subjects they’ll pursue as they get older, but I know that my job is to be sure that they are exposed to a wide world of subjects and that no topic is too out of reach for them.
Interested more in that fun book I shared about above? Look for a full recap coming soon and be sure to check out how to preorder it now for your daughters!
Are your daughters interested in STEM activities? What is their favorite and how do you help foster their love?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.