STEM education (Science Technology Engineering and Math) is the buzz right now in education. It involves fun science experiments and activities to encourage curiosity in the world of STEM.
Kids, being curious, love finding out how things work, love doing hands-on projects. Teachers/educators, on the other hand, love to see kids/students excited about these activities while preparing them for their techy future.
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What is STEM Education?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths. In recent years, it has been reported that fewer students are focusing on STEM subjects with even fewer high school students showing interest in a STEM career. The government is trying to encourage more students to take up STEM careers and topics. Originally a US based concept, developed with the aim of helping students understand the above mentioned disciplines, to help them prepare themselves for a much competitive environment of tomorrow. This multi-discipline based curriculum, believes in applied integrated approach rather than four separate subjects. It involves real-life applications that encourage students to take charge of their own learning and engage in real life problems through experimental learning activities. This also brings out the innovative side of students who are compelled to understand issues and come up with creative solutions for the problem.
Why is STEM Education Important?
Why is there such a growing emphasis on STEM, you wonder? STEM education is extremely important for our future. Here are some of the reasons why:
- STEM subjects includes everything in our lives – science helps us understand our natural world likes, sun, moon, earth, weather, nature, animals, human beings etc. Technology includes our gadgets, T.V., smart phones, computers etc. Engineering involves roads, bridges, transportation, buildings etc. and Math helps in banks, shops, tax, budget etc. Do I need to say more?
- Country needs more people who are trained in STEM fields.
- STEM fields will soon be the most rewarding career options for individuals
- There is a lack of gender and ethnic diversity in students entering STEM education.
- STEM education creates next generation innovators, thinkers and innovation invariably helps boost the economy.
- STEM is good for overall development of a child who is encouraged to understand the process and solve real to life problems with innovative solutions.
- It is both “Knowledge” and “skill” based educational curriculum.
STEM subjects are proving to be increasingly necessary and important for a knowledge based economy. Experts also believe that STEM based careers will have the highest wage earning employees.
STEM education involves an integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics rather than each of these being taught separately in different classes. There is a lot of emphasis on application of real-life knowledge and solutions. The problem is also something that is real and children are encouraged to find solutions to those.
Lately, there has been another variation to the term STEM by adding an ‘A’, to make it STEAM. A stands for Art and design and there has been a growing call to include it in the STEM education. Art and design enhance creativity and is an important part of innovation, hence the need is felt to include it as a subject.
To give you an example of STEM way of teaching, students may be asked to figure out a way to carry large barges of crates. A picture, probably will help them understand the problem better. Students then use, computer aided designs to make a model of a boat, math is used for measurements and budget, science is used to apply it to the working of a boat, engineering is used to build it. Thus encouraging students to come up with innovative designs and models to find a solution.
STEM education is introduced to children at a very young age, in some cases as young as elementary school.
- In elementary school level, STEM education introduces the subjects and provides standard, structure-based inquiry. The goal is to trigger curiosity and interest among students nudging them to explore more.
- As they reach middle school, the course becomes a little more rigorous where students are encouraged to think in the direction of STEM careers.
- By the time they reach high school, the course becomes challenging and focuses on application of subjects with preparation for post-secondary education and employment.
If you wish to encourage your child towards STEM subjects, you can create some projects at home. This will not only get children interested but will also help understand if they are leaning towards a STEM based education. Here are some projects that you can try for your kids aged 4 and above:
Blowing water on wax paper experiment is a fun project that not only entertains but also explains the concept of surface tension and bonding properties of water molecules. Even if your child is too small to understand the science behind it, you can still get them to try it out because it is so much fun. All you need is a straw, waxed paper and an eye dropper or a spoon.
- Place the wax paper on a flat surface and drop water droplet on it.
- Use the straw to blow the water on the wax paper and watch it move or break into smaller water droplets.
- You can also suck it back and blow them out again.
Technology is everywhere around us today. Kids can learn it by using the ipad or the kindle. You can explore pictures and videos with your child on the ipad or the computer on NASA missions. Download the Star Walk app and teach your child about stars and constellations etc.
You can ask children to make their own boat using junk items like straw, cans etc. and once done, you can put it in a tub of water to test or race it. You could also ask children to make straw bridges etc.
To develop your child’s interest in math, create fun projects like shape hunt, where in you can hide various geometry shapes in different places in the room or house and give the kids a picture of the shapes which they are supposed to hunt for. A fun hunting math game. Or create a fun subtraction and addition game with your child’s favorite food items like a cereal or a fruit etc.
There are plenty other creative home projects that you can try out which are based on STEM education to introduce them to STEM at an early age. You can check out more projects online or refer to books for the same.
According to studies, people with STEM related jobs have close to double the pay wages in United States. Forbes, with the help of payscale.com, has done some research on the kind of compensation people in the STEM fields receive. To state roughly, in engineering, a drilling engineer gets the highest pay in the group followed by petroleum engineer, mining engineer and welding engineer who all constitute the top five categories. This is then followed by technology analyst and some health care and medicine related jobs but primarily, engineering sector rules the roost.
Computer science is another money churning job profile with a lot of jobs being available in this field. If science is your thing, you can try clinical research associate and biomedical engineer that fall in the top 20 best paid STEM jobs. However, as a word of caution, entry level jobs in these fields may not pay as much but there is tremendous growth opportunity which will help you earn considerably as you rise up the ladder.
STEM Books for Children
Learning some of the subjects in the STEM curriculum can be challenging. Even more challenging is to teach it to kids in a way that they understand. Thankfully, there are plenty of books available on STEM subjects that can be referred by students and teachers. You can visit your local library or check for them online. Here are some of the popular STEM books for children.