5 Ways to Get Youth Excited about STEM
What is a cloud? Why do boats float? How does a car work? Little learners have such a wide-open curiosity about the world and we believe it is incredibly important to keep feeding that fire. Despite the ravenous interest so many young learners have in STEM topics (science, technology, engineering and math), that enthusiasm tends to fade as they get older.
The US currently has millions of unfilled STEM jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in STEM is expected to grow by 5.3% from 2022 through 2031, which is higher than average job growth.
Whether it is through our the Akkodis Academy or by providing a once-in-a-lifetime internship with Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 team, at Akkodis we believe instilling STEM skills – and passion – should be a priority for everyone. STEM jobs are foundational to building the workforce of the future and a more innovative, more competitive, and more resilient world.
A strong foundation in STEM at a young age can later, provide advanced educational opportunities as well as high-paying and fulfilling career opportunities. This foundation begins at home. If you are looking to foster a passion for STEM in your kids or youth around you, check out these 5 ideas!
8th of November, 2022
1. Start Early
Why is the grass green? Where do the birds go at night? Kids are naturally curious and driven to question the world around them. The human brain is particularly receptive to learning logic and math between ages 1 and 4, so take advantage! STEM is all around us – baking cupcakes introduces chemistry, adding up the cost of groceries is a math lesson, and building block towers is basic engineering.
When kids start young, they develop a positive outlook that can help them stick with STEM learning later, even when it gets challenging. By instilling a problem-solving mindset early on, you help your child frame challenging situations as puzzles to be solved.
2. Make Sure The child Can See Themselves in a STEM Career
Not all heroes wear capes and STEM workers are the superheroes working on finding solutions to the planet's most pressing problems, from climate change to pandemics to tangled global supply chains. STEM workers are our storm trackers, gaming programmers, and cybersecurity warriors. Yet, all too often, kids see STEM learning as numbers to be memorized, or formulas on a wall.
They don't know how much fun a STEM career can be. Make sure that when you talk about STEM, you make it exciting. Use stories about real-world STEM stars, from Neil deGrasse Tyson to Marie Curie, to Elon Musk to bring STEM to life.
3. Step Outside the Classroom
Children are typically fascinated with STEM from a young age, then they get to school and realize that the STEM activities they enjoyed as a kid aren’t the same as the science or math classes they’re taking as they get older. How can we continue the excitement for STEM throughout the school years?
One way to promote their natural curiosity and creativity is to step outside of the classroom. Provide opportunities for your kids to explore their passions in STEM fields through hands-on activities that will develop crucial problem-solving skills. With a quick internet search, you can find thousands of fun activities that are created to make STEM fun for all ages.
Subscription boxes for STEM activities such as Kiwi Crate, MEL Science, and many others can be delivered right to your door on a monthly basis.
An area of STEM that is often overlooked and underrated is learning to code. There are multiple websites that provide opportunities for kids to learn basic coding. Scratch, Code.org, and Osmo are just a few that introduce basic coding. For kids who are ready to go deeper, there are online courses and camps that move past the basics and into real-life coding to create anything from apps to robots to cybersecurity solutions.
4. Get Out of the Way and Out of Their Heads
STEM learning at its best is messy, loud, and hands-on. It might not even look like 'proper learning.' It might feel counterintuitive, but by just stepping back and letting those seeds of curiosity grow, you could be nurturing the world’s next great inventor, scientist, or innovator. Let kids make a mess, break stuff, explore freely.
Kids are constantly hearing conflicting messages about STEM careers. Whether it be from their teachers, parents, or even peers, messages like “You’ll never use Algebra in real-life” or “You can’t make a career out of video games” are influencing the career decisions of kids.
Another conflicting idea - the math brain. According to the American Association of University Women, the myth of the math brain is one of the most self-destructive ideas in American education and research shows no innate cognitive biological differences between men and women in math.
Instead, help your kids to focus on the messages that align with who they are and who they hope to be. Find positive role models who are not only excelling in STEM fields but also having fun while doing it. Help them challenge the stereotypes and focus on their passions, and they will have the self-confidence to embrace the careers that were made for them.
5. Encourage All Genders in STEM
Women comprise nearly half of the US workforce but make up only 27% of STEM workers. With the increase in the focus on STEM, the opportunities that exist for students to explore STEM has grown exponentially. However, the percentage of women in STEM continues to decline. Why?
Think about past pursuits in STEM. How much tension can a Jenga tower take? What wind force will the treehouse withstand? It's all engineering. In the past, these were considered the pursuits of primarily males. So, it’s no surprise that girls lag in participating in STEM fields, compared to their male counterparts.
When you have only one gender involved, you're missing out on a multitude of innovations. Make a point of giving girls the same role in STEM activities as boys and allow them to really grow organically if it is something they are truly passionate about.
How Can We Close the Gender Gap in Stem Fields?
Akkodis has recently partnered with Girls Who Code, an international nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology, and leading the movement to inspire, educate, and equip students who identify as girls or nonbinary with the computing skills needed to pursue 21st-century opportunities.
We support Girls Who Code because they understand that it's not enough to just foster a passion for computer science among girls and young women, but to build pathways that will ensure that they are given equal access to opportunities that turn their interests into lucrative and exciting careers.
Together, we are committed to working together to close the gender gap in engineering, software development, and other technology disciplines.