STEM. Science, technology, engineering, and math. If you want your kids to be prepared for the knowledge, jobs, analytical skills, and creativity the future demands, start them early. We live in a world where STEM knowledge and skills rule.
How to ensure our kids will succeed in subjects intimidating to lots of parents and teachers? I’ll write in some depth about this in the coming months, but here’s a short list to get us thinking.
- Start early. Just as you do with reading, start early with math skills. Count. Measure. Estimate. Tell time. Notice patterns. Just as you praise when they read, praise when they calculate.
- Don’t pass on your anxieties. If math makes you sweat, if you can’t figure out the tip, if you had a hard time with a science teacher, keep it to yourself. When you joke about it, you diminish its importance. Don’t give “permission” to your kids to “hate” a STEM subject. It’s the 21st century, for heaven’s sake.
- Point out STEM everywhere. Promising medicine, amazing cars, cool electronic games, computer-assisted fashion design, exhilarating movies, fantastic animation, saving pet care, astounding entertainment, constantly improving sports, faster aviation – there’s no part of today’s life that’s untouched by STEM.
- Point out STEM careers. The pediatrician. The astronaut. The architects who design and the engineers who build dramatic buildings. The programmers who create cool games. The designers who use technology to build performance-enhancing sports equipment. Forensic cops and docs.
- Point out STEM heroes. Famous and inspiring ones, like Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Gates, Sally Ride, and Thomas Edison. Local ones, like engineers, veterinarians, and teen-aged science fair winners.
- Encourage STEM toys. Toys that build creativity, discovery, and hands-on skills. Building blocks, chemistry kits, simple telescopes, and cameras.
- Have high expectations. Kids live to please us. Support them and keep your expectations high. They’ll meet them.
- Teach the power of perseverance. STEM subjects can be challenging. Show kids how focused struggle can lead to proud success and increased confidence.
- Be a role model. Let kids see you improving your skills for your job (a challenging new software program), for your self-confidence (that restaurant tip), or for your pure enjoyment (learning the moon’s phases). “We’re lifelong learners in this family.”
- Support STEM in schools. Encourage it in the curriculum, expect it in the teaching.
More later. I promise.