February 6, 2018
Why build a love of STEM?
Young children are natural scientists and engineers and a STEM education engages their curiosity, building skills and knowledge. These valuable skills and mindsets not only offer awesome future prospects but also real-time opportunities to invent, make, and compete for fun. Children get to practice and improve their 21st Century Skills and Socio-Emotional Learning including positive and supportive social connections with friends, persistence in problem-solving despite obstacles, and examination of information, exploration of ideas, and independent thought.
Using real science and engineering equipment such as motors, circuit boards, wheels and axles, children in our programs learn through project-building, experiments, coding, and play! Hands-on activities emphasize STEM educational concepts including: energy, simple machines, structures and stability, forces and movement, design, and logic. Some of the toys and games are familiar to children such as Minecraft, Legos, and Scratch. When children participate, experiment, and build, they are able to make real-world connections, and better retain scientific concepts many times not even realizing it’s educational!
There’s something magical about putting the ‘Science,’ ‘Technology,’ ‘Engineering,’ and ‘Math’ together. The mix of subjects and activities allow children who don’t identify themselves as good in ‘Math’ or interested in ‘Engineering,’ to realize how their interests, be it sports, art, or music apply. A basketball athlete can improve his jump shot with his newfound knowledge of angles and force or create a robot to shoot hoops. A gymnast can choreograph a lego person to do a bar routine. A budding artist can create new designs and improve her designs with digital art editing programs. She can create templates, 3D models, and have them physically appear with advanced printers all the while improving spatial and mathematical knowledge. Finally, the musician can orchestrate a succession of notes or programming steps to have a computer make the sounds of a favorite song. There are a great variety of integrated paths and activities to enjoy and learn. Children are motivated and energized to work on their projects learning aspects of ‘S,’ ‘T,’ ‘E,’ and ‘M’ instead of memorizing facts or having an instructed subject class.
Many times children are so motivated they want to compete in local and state STEM competitions creating a parallel to their team sports playoffs. There are several STEM related tournaments from underwater lego challenges (http://www.firstlegoleague.org/) to VEX robotics, where teams are tasked with designing and building a robot to play against other teams in a game-based challenge of moving objects for points (https://www.vexrobotics.com/vexedr/competition). Teamwork, leadership, and communication skills are necessary and further developed. This isn’t a science fair, it is a full on tournament. It’s not just for the nerdy kids and both parents and children are catching on.
So when is the best time to build a love of STEM? After the school day ends!…In a national survey last year, more than 78 percent of children said they had a positive experience with the STEM subject areas because of an after-school program, according to new research from the PEAR Institute at Harvard University, McLean Hospital and IMMAP: Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis and Policy at Texas Tech University. The survey included 1,600 children and after-school program leaders in 11 states. After-school programs, such as those offered at YML, can help students develop an interest by exposing students to more than they see in the regular school day, providing an opportunity for them to develop these interests in a safe place where they can experiment without the worry of grades. If children haven’t developed an interest in STEM fields by the time they leave middle school, then it’s unlikely to happen.
Try out one of our STEM programs or spring break camps, your child may develop a budding interest.