You may have heard of the term STEM, or STEAM recently. It’s an educational initiative to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, and to see the real-world, interconnections between all of them. However, it’s not easy for some kids to buy into this. Especially when the real-world tells them their contributions to science and such is not valid simply because of their gender, age, socioeconomic background or level of education. Making things explode, tearing things apart, figuring out how things work. is all a part of childhood. It’s fun, and should always be a gateway to something a child can be passionate about. So, here are a few ideas for the parents out there who are looking to inspire their budding scientists, engineers, coders and artists.
1. Coding Camps –
There are lots of ways out there to get kids coding and programming. Girls Make Games is a U.S. group out of San Jose, CA that is starting to reach out internationally to get girls into coding. Check out your local library and community centers for any news on coding groups and day camps for your kids. There are all kinds of free apps out there that can let your little code until their heap-stacks overflow. I have no idea what that means. I heard some kid say it.
2. Learning Commons / Maker Spaces –
Speaking of libraries, many libraries around the world are embracing the maker movement and converting some of their spaces into places where kids can come in and create anything from 3D printed models, movies, robots and games in a safe and comfortable environement. They also have books. Lots of books. Print is not dead. Ask around and see if you local library is opening up to this idea.
3. TV Shows –
Looking for something to turn that spark into a fire of knowledge? Plop your kids down in front of a screen and enjoy some science oriented TV shows with them. Seriously, why not? How many generations of scientists and engineers owe their careers to Bill Nye? How many biologists were hooked by David Attenborough’s melodic voice and the wonder that Planet Earth opened up for them? Sit back with the kiddos, kick up your feet, and watch some Mighty Machines, Magic School Bus, Junkyard Wars, Cosmos and Myth Busters, together. Join in on the discussions with them and foster a two way conversation that digs deep into how stars work, how cars go, and how a photons can turn into a portal of discovery?
4. Science Museums/Demonstrations –
There are not only museums out there with dinosaurs in them, Dr. Gellar, but ones that are built around play and discovery, all in the name of science! These are some of the best places for children to connect with technology and science, all under the devious disguise of fun and good times. There’s something about being allowed to mess around with water tables, circuits and lights that capture kids’ interest. Also, these science museums run demos and shows much like Bill Nye, but right there in front of them! How cool is that?! I guess dinosaurs are fun too.
5. Cooking –
For reals! Get your kids cooking. Let them participate at every step; measuring, cutting, stirring, timing, igniting (well maybe igniting with a little supervision). Cooking is a great way to teach science and chemistry, all with a fun result at the end you can eat…most of the time, when things don’t get burned, splashed or dumped out on the floor. Still, it teaches a valuable lesson that when you make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs. It’s a fun way to make a mess and an easy way to learn about fractions and chemistry. Who knew math could taste so good!? MMMM Pi…
6. Building Stuff –
Homemade playdough, straws and tape is enough to build a space station. Legos and some marbles can make a dexterity maze. Add some dice and character sheets and you’re on your way to some DnD action! Whatever you have on hand, you can use to build anything! The best forts are made from cushions and blankets. The best bridges are made from grapes and toothpicks. Let your kids build stuff. Ask them to build a better mouse trap, burglar alarm, monster cage, etc. Have you seen GoldieBlox? If not, go now! Everyone will love it!
7. Taking that Old Stuff Apart –
I was four years old when I got my hand on my dad’s screwdriver kit and promptly disassembled my 1980’s X-Wing fighter. The R2-D2 replica in the co-pilot position would not come out and I sure as hell wanted to know why. Part of the curiosity behind coding, science and math is asking why something works the way it does, then breaking it apart into their base components and examining the pieces. So let your kids get their hands on some tools and let them pull that stuff apart! Old VCRs? Do it! Got a bricked X-Box 360? Do it! Car falling apart in the drive way? Do it! And when you run out of stuff to take apart, put it back together again! Fun times.
What about you, dear readers and listeners? Got some fun lifehacks to get the kids to buy into science? Diet-Coke and Mentos? Homemade Playdoh? Share them with us in the comments below! Buh-Bye!