Summer Learning: STEM Activities for Kids
STEM Education—My two young daughters keep me hopping during the day, so I do my best to keep them busy. Now that my oldest is in preschool, I am trying to incorporate more scientific activities into our play. My husband, a mechanical engineer, and I, a biologist turned scientific writer, are passionate about getting our kids involved in science at a young age. I think it’s natural for parents to want their kids to grow up to be just like them, but that is not the main reason why we are encouraging our daughters to think about science for fun and for careers. He and I are keenly aware of the increasing number of jobs requiring a scientific background and the shortage of students, especially girls, completing science degrees. Without boring you, our country is in a STEM – Science Technology Engineering Math – crisis.
As kids go through our educational system, most students gradually lose interest in science. The end result is a national shortage in doctors, engineers, scientists and fewer creative, critical thinkers that can find a cure to cancer or diabetes or solve water shortages. Check out these informative sites for more information on the challenges we face in preparing our kids for the future:
- Change the Equation
- STEM Education Coalition
- PBS Teachers – Stem Education Resource Center
- North Carolina STEM Community Collaborative – The Leaky Pipeline
Like most kids, our daughters demonstrate intense curiosity about how the world works. We try to answer their questions in a fun way and get them involved in thinking critically, tinkering and experiments. Even preschoolers can get involved in small sorting and categorization experiments. One of my daughter’s favorite games is “Will it Sink or Float?” She has fun gathering random household objects and questioning if it will sink or float. She drops items in a big bowl of water and we talk about why a bolt will sink and why a sponge floats. Activities like this are awesome for engaging her mind and encouraging her to ask questions.
Cooking is another way to involve kids in STEM because it involves measuring (math) and observing physical changes. My daughter likes to help me make pizza dough from scratch and it gives me the opportunity to tell her about how yeast works and what happens when we heat something in the oven.This summer, I encourage your family to visit a local science museum and organize fun activities at home. How to Smile has a great listing of activities for a wide range of ages and interests. The Science After School Consumers Guide is fantastic and I like PBS Kids’ parent and teacher resources.
What are your go-to science activities or resources for kids? How do you make science fun and interesting?
Amy Charest is a scientific writer passionate about STEM issues, environmental policy, agriculture, and food safety. Follow her scientific interests via @BioscienceFan. She is also Amy On The Prairie, a midwestern work-at-home mommy of two, former world traveler, and comfort foodie. She blogs about cooking for her family and other things that float her boat, like crusading to bring Top Chef to Minneapolis. Follow her on Twitter (@AmyOnThePrairie) and on Facebook.