By Rachel Wells
By definition, the word STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. You may see STEM and STEAM used interchangeably in the news. The meaning of the added ‘A’ is Art. STEM education is beneficial to students developing minds because it integrates all of those subjects into cohesive lessons instead of being taught individually.
STEM programs focus on real world learning, hands on problem solving, and conceptual thinking. STEM prepares children to understand skills in the way they will be used in real life and in the workforce. Jobs rarely require the use of one specific skills, and STEM learning shows students how different skills and subjects compliment on another.
Adding arts into a STEM program means the activities and projects incorporate creative thinking, application, and discovering, into the real life situations. Adding the arts, has more of an importance for elementary school aged children, as this is where the foundations for learning are made. Whether you call it STEM or STEAM, the underlying idea is the same, learning is done by integrating all of the components into one lesson plan.
So is STEM education just another buzzword or trend enjoying its five minutes of fame? The answer to that question is simply – No. STEM has historically been a part of education in the USA since the 1990’s. Today, education is moving away from memorizing facts and instead focusing on thinking critically and evaluating ideas to gain a greater understanding of why and how.
In a time in which students can spend some much time with a screen, it is imperative to give students time to explore and grow, learn through trial and error, and learn in ways that reflect real life. STEM fosters a love of learning, and makes subjects and classes that may not seem fun to children, engaging and exciting.
The world is changing. There are almost twice as many STEM job openings as there are non-STEM job openings in today’s job market. STEM careers include:
Statistics regularly show that females are underrepresented in STEM related job fields, and STEM education is geared towards breaking traditional gender roles, and getting female students interested and confident in science and math.
Lucky for parents and educators, STEM works directly with the way children’s minds naturally learn and work. Many STEM activities are made to feel like games and play, instead of traditional school activities. It shouldn’t take much work to get your child excited about STEM time.
Be sure to encourage your child’s curiosity, their desire to ask questions, and their drive to explore. During play times offer open ended toys (i.e. wooden blocks and arches, play silk, nesting toys, magnetic tiles, marbles, figurines), and building materials (i.e. plastic cups, wooden craft sticks, glue, paper, rulers, cardboard tubes or boxes) on a regular basis.
Another way to peak your child’s interest in STEM is by encouraging their passions. If your child is interested in dinosaurs, do STEM lessons with a dinosaur theme. If your child is really into flying and airplanes, do stem activities that go along with flight. STEM lessons can be easily adapted to whatever your child is currently passionate about. When the activities match children interests, they will be more engaged and excited to complete the activity.
At Apollo after school program activities, students have access to STEM lessons regularly, and during our Chicago summer camp, children will participate in daily STEM activities that go along with weekly and daily themes. As part of our daily summer program for kids, students will build, create, study cause and effect, and engage in scientific reasoning, while also learning about themselves and how to work with a team.
So what is STEM education and why is it important? To sum up the answer to this question – STEM education means combining multiple subject areas into one well rounded lesson. STEM is important for children because it focuses on real world learning and understanding.
STEM gives children an opportunity to learn in a natural way – through investigation, exploration, and critical thinking. Keeping checking the blog in upcoming weeks as I will be adding some fun summer STEM lessons that you can do with your children at home!