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How to Choose a STEM After-School Activity

Posted by Ayelet Mullen on Mar 2, 2018 10:33:31 AM

March 1, 2018

Ayelet Mullen


How to Choose an After-School Activity

Choosing an after-school program for your child can be a daunting task. The description of activities sound great but will my child want to go? Will they have fun and want to go back? What will they learn? Who will be there? How will I squeeze it in with his/her other activities and my schedule? Where exactly is it? Some of these questions you may have asked yourself as well as many others. There are so many choices with such a variety of specialties…how do I choose, or do I let my child choose?

Here is some information to help you decide if Young Makers Lab is a good fit for you and your child now or perhaps during a school break.

  • Childhood is the best time for exploring interests. Do you or your child want to explore STEM projects or competitive learning? Does your child enjoy photography, coding, MineCraft, Legos, drawing, electronic toys? The best activity for your child is one that interests them.
  • What if your child isn’t sure or is not interested in a class? Or if you’re not sure you want to encourage the class? Read the description to understand the meaning behind the activity name. Make a quick phone call or text to discover more. Sometimes the same class in a different environment or with a different instructor makes all the difference. Visit the program or class of interest and see what it’s all about. Maybe you don’t want to encourage more MineCraft/screen time but by learning about the class, you may realize the value in the guidance towards discovering learning principles intertwined in a social group setting, focusing your child to notice things that may have been overlooked or ignored. Sometimes joining the class with a friend is encouragement to try new activities.
  • Consider how you want your child to participate in the activity. Are they just learning or do they want to be on a competitive team? There is a huge variety of STEM competitions and fairs these days from robotics, 3D design, photography, and Legos. Some require travel and others do not. The age ranges up from elementary school children and can be regional to world levels. Ask questions to find out what they are all about. Are classes leading to a competition or fair or can you opt out if your child doesn't want to get to that stage?
  • What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses? After-school STEM activities are a great way to address your child's skill set. They can enrich strengths and minimize any weaknesses in a friendly, relaxed environment. They can focus a child further into a STEM track or add balance to a sports/movement heavy schedule. They can help add to your child's positive development in the areas of:
    • Attention/focus
    • Fine motor skills (dexterity, ability to do detail work)
    • Social skills
    • Behavior
    • Self-esteem/awareness
    • Cognitive skills (math, learning)
  • What is the cost and convenience of the class? Cost is always a factor. Group activities generally speaking, can be less expensive than private or semi-private lessons. Ask about the group size and what the instructor-to-child ratio is. What latest and greatest technology is your child working with? How long is the class and how many times does it meet? It may turn out that one class is more expensive than another but meets more times so the price per class is the same.
  • Convenience is another factor. When is the class offered? Can I fit it into my child’s or my schedule? If so, will it create a stressful schedule or not? Young Maker’s Lab offers several different classes and clubs to allow flexibility for parents and their children. Some are longer in duration so that more progress can be made for the children and parents can run errands, while others are shorter to allow for time for other activities, homework, etc. Young Maker’s Lab offers classes in local schools and at their lab in Boca Raton (off I-95 and Yamato). The Lab is outfitted like a workshop with lots of tables, tools, and technology. It is close to grocery stores, restaurants, banks and a children’s park.

When your child can’t wait to go to the activity, leaves with a smile or has a hard time leaving the activity, you can feel confident that it is making a positive impact. “Pack up” time before the end of class can be quite challenging (in a good way). If your child is participating in a class that they dislike, it’s worth spending a little time to figure out why. Have a quick conversation with your child and then with the instructor. What you find out and your child's age will help you determine whether or not to stick-it-out or bail. Sticking-it-out can sometimes be rewarding. Luckily, most classes are only one season or one semester long.

By asking some of the questions above and visiting the class before signing up, you increase the odds of making the experience successful.

Tags: robotics teams, stem education, stem, robotics, learning, teaching

Young Makers Lab

A Makerspace for Kids

YML offers a wide range of STEM education opportunties for kids beginning at age 5. 

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