Parents across the nation have hit a panic button with regard to the lack of STEM education across many school boards. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is quickly becoming one of the most popular career fields, but schools are having trouble catching up across many states in the US and provinces/territories in Canada. Not only are topics like coding and robotics becoming of huge interest to kids, but controversial topics like Minecraft have left many parents and teachers scratching their heads and wondering what to do next.
Let me share some good news with you! There is no need to panic. There is a way to educate the kids of Canada and help them become the future leaders of tomorrow. I truly believe that kids can achieve anything, if they think it is possible. It’s a good news story which means we do not need to plunk children in front of screens but instead teach them how to move from consuming to creating.
I was selected for a program based at NASA called Singularity University and found ways to apply technology to education. I have over ten years experience of developing programs that kids love. Here are my top five solutions for helping kids get engaged in STEM.
1. FOLLOW THEIR INTERESTS
Your kids are interested in Minecraft? No need to panic! Minecraft is actually an incredibly powerful educational tool that is being taught in school. We leverage kids’ interest in Minecraft to get them engaged in things like graphic design, 3D modeling, learning teamwork and social skills via building projects together, and developing realworld transferable skills such as computer literacy, electronic concepts, and building servers. Best of all, kids see it as having fun! And meanwhile, they are learning the whole way through.
Even if your child doesn’t show a natural interest in STEM topics such as coding, robotics or Minecraft, it’s possible to connect one of their natural interests to one of these subjects. Do they love baseball? Great! They could make a robot that plays the song “Take me out to the
ballgame”. Or they could code a videogame that’s baseball based. Or how about building a baseball stadium in Minecraft and staging a game with their friends? The possibilities are endless.
2. LET THEM BE THE EXPERT
Sometimes it can be intimidating for parents and teachers to see their kids learning things super quickly and seeming to know more than those older than them. No need to fear this is natural!
As long as you can guide your child to the right principles and practices to keep them safe, it is totally fine for them to learn more about something like Minecraft or coding than you know. It can be tempting for some parents and teachers to try and stay as the expert, and avoid the topic, but there are ways for parents and kids to collaborate and learn together.
3. FOSTER INNOVATIVE MINDSETS
Sayings like “It’s OK to fail” can be incredibly helpful in encouraging children to take risks to learn new things and be creative. Sometimes learning new things can be frustrating; saying “When you feel like you’re behind, you’re probably actually ahead” can go a long way in terms of helping a child realize that these enriching activities can be incredibly rewarding for them even if they might on the surface seem challenging. These days school is set up in such a way that it
can actually be difficult to find an opportunity for children to take a risk and then experience failure but if you never experience setbacks, how are you supposed to develop resilience?
Providing kids with activities that will challenge and stretch them (along with the support structures to help them know that it’s okay) can be extremely transformative. And once they learn from their mistakes and build that awesome robot that they’ve been dreaming of, they’ll be unstoppable!
4. FIND ROLE MODELS
If you look back in your life, I’m sure you can identify at least one role model that helped inspire you to get to where you are today. When encouraging a child to consider a STEM career, it’s important for them to be able to imagine what that might actually look like. Maybe you have a family friend that is a scientist that they could meet. Or if you sign them up for a STEM camp or program, they will get to meet enthusiastic and knowledgeable instructors who they will be able
to bond with and learn from. Even one role model can go a long way this sort of inspiration can last a lifetime!
5. EXPOSE THEM TO STEM ACTIVITIES
How will your child know if they like STEM activities if they’ve never had the chance to try them? Sign your child up for a STEM afterschool program or camp such as MakerKids (www.makerkids.com), the first and largest makerspace for kids in the world. MakerKids teaches kids ages 812 Coding, Robotics and Minecraft through camps, afterschool programs and birthday parties. Recognized by Toronto Life Magazine as “Best Kids’ Workshops” and as one of the top 10 awesome birthday party places in Toronto by Today’s Parent, MakerKids has been running its programs for over six years for thousands of kids. With experienced and enthusiastic instructors, a beautiful space, and best practices in the industry, MakerKids is a great choice to help your kid realize their potential.