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.

 

Create Interest in STEM with Your Activities

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.

 

student tracking a radiosonde on the computer and via triangling
Me as a student tracking a radiosonde via computer (left) and tri-angling (right)

 

 

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:

 

how to inspire children for STEM by letting them experiment
Left: Me as a toddler building sand piles (at that time a boy’s thing). Right: Me in the lab taking the weight of a wet soil sample.

 

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.

 

 

students performing field and lab work in STEM
Left: Me as a student wiring up an instrument to measure soil temperature. Right: Analyzing concentrations of SF6 in air samples with a gas chromatograph.

 

 

© 2013-2022 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved