6 Ways to Encourage STEM Learning Over the Summer

Keeping kids learning over the summer is important, and one of the biggest challenges parents face is helping them focus on STEM-related activities. It’s critical, especially with younger children, to make the process fun. With these 6 ideas, you can see that your children will develop a lifelong appetite for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Know Your Child

Before you make any decisions about how to promote STEM learning, you should take some time at the beginning of the summer to assess your child’s skills, knowledge and level of interest. Building a STEM-centric education should not be about pushing your kid to become a scientist or an engineer. It should be about helping children appreciate how an evidence-based worldview and analysis figure into everything they do. If you push beyond a child’s abilities or interests, they may tune out altogether.

Over time, kids will gravitate toward particular fields. If your child begins to show an interest in art, it may be beneficial to look at how STEM concepts connect with art, such as color theory. Even if a kid is already very STEM-focused, a soft nudge in a slightly different direction may be beneficial. A child who is crazy about tech should be encouraged to learn how math and engineering factor in.

Trips

Families frequently elect to take trips over the summer, and this represents a huge opportunity to do something STEM-related. Taking a day or two to go to a natural science museum will allow your kids to check out things they’ve never seen before. Similar trips can be scheduled to aquariums, aviaries and zoos. If there’s a major facility, such as a NASA center, near where you live, you may want to find out what types of tours they offer. Seeing scientists and engineers in action can help kids attach to the idea that these are real jobs that people actually do.

Right at Home

There are many STEM learning opportunities around your own house. Cooking and baking are fun and edible ways to introduce your children to some of the basics of chemistry. There are also a number of LEGO sets available that now teach children principles of robotics. Even letting a child hand you a rag while you check the oil level in your car can inspire greater confidence in their ability to approach big machines.

Single-Board Computers

The advent of cheap electronics that can be tailored to a wide range of applications, such as the Arduino system, has opened up numerous learning opportunities. One of the most important lessons that kids, especially older ones, can learn about STEM is that many skills are multidisciplinary. Setting up an SBC system to monitor daily moisture levels in soil is a great way, for example, to show a kid who’s into natural science how programming and IoT technologies matter in different fields of interest.

Discussion

There’s something to be said for using teachable moments to explain to children why STEM matters. When a problem comes up, think for a second about how to encourage a more scientific analysis of it. Critical thinking skills need to be regularly fostered, and establishing a culture of scientific thought can go a long way toward promoting STEM learning. Take the time to talk about an event, such as a meteor shower. Rather than simply explaining what happened, challenge your children to come up with their own explanations. The simplest things, such as seeing a dust devil in the middle of summer, can be the sources of amazing conversations.

Build Resources

Good science takes resources, and a lack of practical tools, books and materials is often one of the biggest impediments to STEM learning. As your kids get older, you can slowly accumulate resources that match their skill levels. Taking the time to acquire a soldering iron or a hot glue gun, for example, will pay dividends long after the summer is over. Add several books each summer in order to expand your child’s knowledge and to gain even more ideas to work with. With the combination of knowledge and tools, they’ll come to appreciate the connection between learning and making.

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