“We should not teach children the sciences but give them a taste for them.”
-Jean Jacques Rosseau
Children are naturally curious. They ask questions about things that adults may take for granted, and they see life in a unique way. Some children may break toys just to see how they work. Despite their natural curiosity, numerous studies have found that children lose interest in science and mathematics by middle school. Some potential reasons may be a perception that these subjects are harder, that children do not see their relevance to everyday life, and that they may not have the support needed to foster success. We hope that these five suggestions will help your children develop an appreciation for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and inspire them to achieve their educational goals.
Include science everyday
“Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated,” Rosalind Franklin. Show children how important science is to their everyday life. Everything in life requires STEM in some form. Mathematical skills are extremely useful whether you are negotiating at a car dealership or preparing recipes for a dinner party. Doing hands-on experiments with your children at home and going on fun field trips around town can bring science to life for them. Discuss their observations and highlight some of the scientific jobs associated with these activities. Watching a video on how their beloved cell phone works could spark their interest in computer sciences. There are also many tutorials that teach children how to code, which is increasingly becoming an essential skill.
Get fun STEM books
High-interest non-fiction STEM books can expose children to science and engineering from an early age so that they naturally develop a love for the sciences. Consider getting books about space exploration, the inner workings of the human body, creatures in the deep ocean, or our incredible world to broaden your child’s breadth of knowledge. Children’s levels of general knowledge in kindergarten have been linked to science achievement and overall success in elementary and middle school (Morgan et.al (2016)). Parents should find books that are fun and educational with beautiful illustrations and interactive features that will keep children engaged while learning. You will improve their chances of academic success and may spark an interest that leads to their life’s career.
Include the arts
Exposure to science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) will help your child develop into a well-rounded person. Encourage children’s natural curiosity and creativity with hands-on play. You may get magic science kits or create kitchen experiments with ingredients from your pantry. Some children may have a limited perception of science because of a lack of exposure. When they hear science and engineering, the only things that may come to their mind may be laboratory work or building construction. Those things are great; however, STEAM entail so much more. It is very important to show children that science can also be beautiful and artistic through painting, blending colors, photographs of nature or intricately designed skyscrapers. Reading classical works of literature can strengthen their critical thinking and writing skills. Children who play an instrument also achieve higher scores in science and mathematics than their peers who do not (Guhn et. al 2020). Learning a foreign language could also make it easier to learn computer programming (Pratt et. al 2020). The world’s problems are inter-disciplinary; therefore, they require problem-solvers with a diverse set of skills.
Find a STEM role model
When children see a successful professional, who embodies their dream career, it can have a significant impact on their success. It is a fact that representation really matters. Having a STEM role model who they can relate to, could inspire your child to pursue a career in STEM. Marian Wright Edelman stated, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Expose children to a wide range of STEM careers and connect them to a mentor in their field of interest if possible. A mentor can show them what that career entails and advise them on how they can start preparing for success. A mentor could also help your child gain practical experience through internships. Encouragement is also very important to success. Children need to connect with someone in the field that they aspire to.
Join a STEM club
Participating in a STEM club provides a support network from a group of like-minded individuals. Your child can get involved with group activities and be exposed to various STEM career options and hands-on learning experiences which could boost confidence in STEM subjects. There may be STEM summer camps and after-school programs at your school or in your town. Support groups can provide motivation and friendship to encourage students to pursue STEM careers and make them fun experiences. A strong support is critical to anyone’s success. Participating in a STEM club is also a great way to build their network with other children who may eventually become their college cohort or future colleagues in the industry.
Regardless of your child’s career path, STEM skills are beneficial for any field. In fact, some of the world’s best business minds have a STEM background. If you give your children a taste for the sciences, they will remember their love for the applications and be determined to succeed even when the assignments require a bit more effort. Encourage your children not to give up. STEM education is critical to our nation’s economy and national security. Your child may hold the keys to solving some our world’s biggest challenges once you help them unlock their potential!
Guhn, M., Emerson, S. D., & Gouzouasis, P. (2020). A population-level analysis of associations between school music participation and academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 112(2), 308.
Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M. M., & Maczuga, S. (2016). Science achievement gaps begin very early, persist, and are largely explained by modifiable factors. Educational Researcher, 45(1), 18-35.
Prat, C. S., Madhyastha, T. M., Mottarella, M. J., & Kuo, C. H. (2020). Relating natural language aptitude to individual differences in learning programming languages. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-10.
About the Authors
Dr. Donya Frank-Gilchrist
Donya Frank-Gilchrist, Ph. D. is an ocean engineer and a published author with a strong passion for reading. This article was inspired by her father, Mr. Frank, who is the epitome of Mr. Fix-It and a natural-born engineer. Dr. Frank-Gilchrist enjoys exploring new topics with her husband and two young children through reading and traveling. She has served on the Regional Executive Board of the National Society of Black Engineers and co-founded two college chapters. She has also been involved with various university and community initiatives to encourage girls and underrepresented minority students to pursue STEM careers. Dr. Frank-Gilchrist promotes STEM education and literacy as an Educational Services Representative with Usborne Books & More Educational Services. Their fun, interactive, educational books keep children engaged and fuel their passion for learning. Please contact her at [email protected] to receive personalized recommendations for your readers and browse their amazing collection at www.booksmadefun.com.
Mrs. Mary Frank
Mrs. Mary Frank, M. Ed. is an award-winning educator with over 41 years of experience teaching at public high schools. Among her many accolades, she has been recognized with the Prime Minister of Jamaica’s Medal of Appreciation for service to education, a study facility and a scholarship fund named in her honor. In addition to being a Spanish teacher, she has served in several administrative capacities including Grade Supervisor, Head of Department for Modern Languages, Vice Principal and Acting Principal. She is now retired and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, promoting literacy, and engaging in various community service activities.