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- Early STEM education is enjoying relatively new popularity.
- There are many misconceptions about it that impact our children’s STEM learning.
- For example, the average preschool or kindergarten classroom teaches math for only 58 seconds a day in the US.
I didn’t think STEM was cool when I was a child. In fact, it seemed fringe.
It was a subject like any other, but it wasn’t popular. Sometimes I had amazing teachers, other times I had teachers who were half-hearted about their subject matter. The one underlying pattern to my STEM education was that when I had good teachers, I’d love the subject.
Many of us grew up without a great early STEM education. It wasn’t as popular in the mainstream as it is now.
Teachers are, arguably, paying more attention to teaching STEM to K-6 students than ever before. This is good news. But there are still many misconceptions about STEM given its relatively new popularity. These myths affect how our children learn sciences and math.
Our beliefs about STEM directly affect how we teach it. So let’s tackle some of these common myths.
Myth 1: It’s better for older students because it’s more complicated. Young kids should learn other things first.
STEM concepts become more complicated as kids advance in their studies, but early childhood STEM concepts are simple. They’re about how things work. When kids are young, STEM is about the exploration of the natural world and becoming comfortable with numbers.
Take math, for example. It’s extremely valuable to teach math to young children. In fact, early preschool math skills are better at predicting later academic success than early reading and attention skills.
Learning to read is difficult, yet we teach reading to our kids at the youngest age possible. We patiently teach them to read despite the difficulty. We can do the same with math.
Difficulty alone shouldn’t be why we avoid teaching our kids valuable skills that can give them a head start at school.
Myth 2: STEM is better suited for kids who show exceptional talent in Sciences and Math.
Just imagine a world where we encourage children to read, but only if they show a special talent for it. That would leave many of us behind, literacy-wise.
Encouraging STEM in children is important if we want them to understand how things work. In fact, this shouldn’t be difficult. Young kids are always curious about how things work.
STEM helps us understand our natural world in the same way that language helps us understand the human world.
STEM learning is not only reserved for kids who show a preference for it, but it’s also for any child who is curious about our world.
It also doesn’t hurt if they grow to love these subjects and decide to pursue a career in it. STEM majors are earning more than non-STEM majors with a starting salary averaging $15,500 more a year straight out of college. Note that these are averages and that there are many factors to consider.
Myth 3: It’s Not as Creative as the Humanities and the Arts.
Creativity. The instinct to associate this word with paintings and sculptures is strong. However, the arts are just one of the many ways creativity manifests itself.
- In art, creativity is expressing emotions through traditionally artistic mediums.
- In science and math, creativity is expressing solutions and new ideas through scientific language.
Many would argue that they are equally creative, albeit in different ways. What is important here is to recognize that we can’t limit our ideas of creativity to a few chosen fields.
Myth 4: You need to have a STEM degree to teach STEM.
Teaching STEM at school or at home can seem daunting.
Many adults aren’t as confident in teaching STEM as they are in teaching reading to young kids. Teachers who aren’t comfortable with these subjects will spend less time teaching them.
That’s why we need to be willing to ask for help and look for resources that will make STEM teaching easier for teachers and parents.
Look below for some ideas and resources that may help.
STEM Teaching Tools for Young Kids
If you’re a parent teaching STEM at home:
If your child is young, why not integrate reading time with STEM learning? Things like our collection of illustrated stories that teach math concepts. These type of books help kids build essential skills and engage them with inspiring stories of perseverance. They also feature activities you can do with your child as you progress through the story.
Other Fun Parent/Child STEM activities together.
- Work on a project like Lego’s Creative Toolbox Robot Building Set with them. This is a project that can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. It also takes some supervision if your children are young. This makes it an ideal Parent and Child engineering project to do together.
- You can also take a look at our picks for 18 of the Best STEM Kits for Kids. We’ve organized our picks into subject matter and sub-topics to make it easy to find a kit that will complement your teaching goals.
There are many great online resources for teaching STEM in the classroom. Any natural science experiment and worksheet can help teach kids important concepts. If you’d like more direction or you’re just getting started in teaching STEM, take a look at books like STEAM: Practical Strategies for the K-8 Classroom.
STEM in Literature: You can also find stories that feature STEM. Some of our favorites include NYTimes bestselling picture book, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Triangle by the multi-award winning duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen.
STEM Toys and Activities: If you have a flexible budget, there are also innovative toys like Sphero that can teach kids to code on collaborative projects. This is something that can be adapted for groups of kids and is what Apple Camp uses.
Changing the Norm
It takes a period of time before beliefs change. We’re not quite there yet. Between teachers who don’t feel confident about teaching STEM in Pre-K to 6, to an education system that is undergoing an overhaul, we’ve got ways to go.
As parents and teachers, we can aim to create a more encouraging STEM learning environment. With a little research, a lot of intention, and plenty of love, we can help our kids grow up with a good understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts.