As the World’s population is increasing at an unpreceded pace, advancement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is critical to ensure food, water, clothing, access to medical treatment, quality of life, and adequate housing for everyone. Unfortunately, too few young (wo)men choose a STEM field in college. In my opinion, the reason is a lack of sufficient early exposure to these fields. Here, I provide ideas from own and my former students’ common experiences. We all have been inspired for our field in childhood by adults. Best, the majority of them weren’t STEM teachers and weren’t in this field.
Disclosure: Sponsored post.
We all know the importance of education. Education is not like uploading a software or information. It’s an ongoing process that starts in early childhood, and continues into adulthood. As parents, grandparents, coaches, and educators we can actively seed the interests of kids and teenager in a variety of directions.
Creating interest with your own activities is not limited to sports, or the Fine Arts like playing an instrument, ballet, healthy eating, joining a chorus. You don’t need a STEM degree to inspire kids for STEM. Recall that your grandparents invest in medicine as a resource to improve their quality of life. A kid is probably curious how the pills could do that.
The answer that doctors performed research to develop the pills is straight forward. However, it most likely fails to inspire kids for medicine unless you add cool perks. For instance, their research can save life, doctors earn a lot of money, heal people, etc..
STEM Activities to Do with Kids
Young kids learn by imitating adults. Therefore, create opportunities as a tool how to inspire children for STEM:
- Watch shows of events like a rocket start with your kids. The baby-boomer may recall how inspiring NASA’s Moon Landing was for us in the late 1960s.
- National Geographic-type movies on animals are a great start for young kids. Discuss how wildfires affect the animals’ habitat. What it means for them. Why the waterhole is dangerous.
- Go to the zoo.
- Movies like Apollo 13 or Twister, Volcano, Dante’s Peak are great for pre-teenagers and teenagers, respectively, to inspire to enter geosciences.
- Visit a stalactite cave, a canyon, waterfall, a dam.
- Visit Science, Technology, and Life Sciences museums!
- Tell the life stories of famous people in STEM.
- Take opportunities from nature. For instance, make them aware of water flowing always downstream unless there is an obstacle or a whirl.
- Create a rainbow with a garden hose.
- Determine with them how much water one can purr into dry soil.
- Measure snow depth, take a sample by pressing a container down until you reach the ground. Then melt. Repeat at another spot. Discuss why results differ.
- Give them educational books on a STEM field as a gift.
Always discuss how findings, technical developments and/or natural events may affect human life and their family.
How My Dad Inspired Me to Enter a STEM Field
One day, I saw my Dad with a small paint brush brushing blossoms in his greenhouse. He answered my questions on what, why, how. The little toddler (me) learned that without bees and/or wind, there would grow no fruits, and how to solve that problem.
On clear nights, Dad explained the sky, and its star constellations. He also let me watch the Moon thru his telescope. Today I see constellations, not just plasma.
When he was climbing with us kids in sand mines, he explained the concept of potential energy. Stones high up have the potential to slide down, which they don’t have at the bottom. He also showed me how to split rocks in search for fossils.
One spring, the Rhine had an extreme flood. Dad took this event to tell us about the importance of trees for the water cycle.
Be Honest When You Don’t Know the Answer
When I was a teenager, my Dad talked about a radio broadcast. It claimed that the Soviets discussed deviating Siberian rivers to the south for irrigation. A disadvantage of doing so would be a change in local climate. I asked
Why would that alter the local climate?
No idea. They didn’t give a reason.
This answer was the hook to study meteorology and geophysics. I became a professor of atmospheric sciences, and among others, wrote a book on Land-Use and Land-Cover Changes – Impacts on Climate and Air Quality.
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