STEM -or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math- encapsulates the general sciences associated with modern medicine, architecture, computer innovation, and much more.
There has been significant attention placed on STEM in recent years, especially how boys are far more encouraged and inclined to pursue degrees and careers in some way associated with one of these four disciplines.
Girls are just as capable of boys in understanding and enjoying STEM-related activities, and they deserve to be encouraged in these disciplines. The sooner children are exposed to and embrace science and math, the higher the impact for life.
Encouraging a healthy and robust desire to pursue the sciences begins early, yet it’s easy for parents to assume a child is still too young to understand many of the concepts associated with STEM.
Children are Perfectly Adapted
When it comes to learning STEM concepts, it’s not that difficult to teach these to early learners. Children are naturally curious, especially about nature, science, and the world around them.
They have this innate curiosity about the living world. All it takes is to step back and allow them to investigate things, discover what interests them the most, and then encourage them to ask questions about this new world they’re discovering.
When you do that, you are effectively engaging children in STEM.
Using Engineering and Technology to Solve Problems
Have you ever noticed a toddler using a tablet or other similar computer device to play games on? Parents or a caregiver might show them the basics about how to use it, but they discover shortcuts, stumble upon new ways of connecting with certain apps, and even how to watch to their favorite videos.
The basics of engineering and technology provide children a foundation that helps them solve problems they encounter in the real world, the world they experience daily.
Stacking blocks, lining up dominoes, and even nesting small circles in larger ones are popular games young children are encouraged to play. While adults might see this as very basic and rudimentary, the foundation is rooted in engineering.
These early STEM experiences can be — and should be — started at an early age. By exposing young children to science, technology, engineering, and math early on, it can help transform them as they get older.
They could have a strong desire to pursue one or more of these in greater detail and with more fervency as they move into high school and head towards college.
The Natural World Outside
Another example of how children are naturally inclined to STEM can be seen when you look at how they interact in the outside world. Go on a “nature walk” with a child and encourage her curiosity and inquisitiveness.
You’ll notice her wanting to explore the trees, the leaves, the ground, the grass, and even the bugs crawling along with the roots. He’ll pick up rocks, try to skip them across the pond, find sticks and fossils and seeds and even broken eggshells or birds’ nests that tumbled from the trees above.
As they collect, they can be taught about these objects, these items. They can even practice counting. Parents and caregivers have an opportunity to create questions or hypotheses about the things they see and then, together, determine whether it’s true or not.
Active exploration wires the brain in such a way that children who are exposed to these experiences early on have a greater tendency to lean towards the sciences and mathematics in their later educational careers.
STEM Can Also Help with Planning
Children don’t tend to plan things out very often (or well). That’s because they don’t need to. In most cases, children have their days planned out for them by parents, teachers, caregivers, or other guardians.
They may not even know when “playtime” is going to be, except when it’s approaching that time, and they’re told to clean up and get ready.
When children have opportunities to explore the world around them and begin learning the sciences and math more acutely, they intuitively learn to start planning specific activities.
This can help with creative play, interaction with other children, and even bolster self-esteem. Even their analytical skills will be strengthened, the more they’re exposed to science and math.
Questioning, Observing, Communicating
The more children learn, the more support they’re given during that learning process, the more likely they are to question even greater things surrounding them. They tend to observe more acutely (than adults) and develop improved communication skills.
This is an active learning process and a circular one. What that means is when children are fostered into this type of learning experience, they observe, question, and as they gain new answers, they seek out new experiences and begin peeling the layers of onions wrapping around the environment in which they live.
Children who are exposed to STEM early in life also tend to work through problems or questions longer before giving up or seeking help, advice, or counsel.
Their communication methods will also expand. They often begin using a variety of media as powerful tools, like painting, drawing, sculpting, building models, and even playing music.
Arts and Science
The more solid a child’s foundation in STEM, the more they’ll discover science in many areas of life, including the arts. Consider how sound, tone, and musical notes are achieved.
The wavelengths differ, volume affects how certain surfaces will vibrate, and all of these start coming together and making more sense, often inspiring even more curiosity, exploration, and excitement.
A Burning Desire
Infants and toddlers are naturally inquisitive. Set an infant who can crawl down in the middle of a room and what are they going to do? Likely start getting into trouble, crawling into places parents don’t want them to, trying to open doors, cabinets, or even bottles.
It’s vital to protect infants and toddlers from harmful chemicals and other hazards, but it’s also as crucial to encouraging them to listen, look, touch, taste, and smell things, but make sure they do it with you and safely.
Look at the world with them and try to see everything through their perspective, their lens. Look at certain things for 10 or 15 seconds then encourage your child to cover his eyes and recall what he has seen.
STEM experiences abound, no matter how young or old a child is. The earlier children are exposed to STEM, supported in their natural curiosity, taught based on their interests and inquisitive minds, the more substantial the experience might be.
Encouraging STEM in both boys and girls helps lay a foundation for influential leaders, innovators, and developers of tomorrow.