STEM skills are necessary for any human who wants to be able to function in the world. It is ironic, then, that the refrain heard most often by STEM teachers is “I am never going to use this in real life!” You’ve likely heard this from your own kids as you’ve tried to cajole them into doing their homework or, over the last year, to actually turn on their computers in time for their remote learning lessons.
For some older students, this year of pandemic lockdowns might have been enough to illustrate why proficiency in STEM subjects is important. But what about your younger learners or teens who might not have quite grokked that lesson?
Remember: Every Kid Learns Differently
Everybody learns a little bit differently. Some people are visual learners, others learn by doing. Some do better in a traditional classroom, others have thrived in their remote classes. It is important to practice patience with your kids when they struggle with STEM subjects—particularly if these are subjects that come naturally to you. If your kids feel like they aren’t “measuring up” they are more likely to shut down and convince themselves that they will never be able to learn at all.
Use Your Kids’ Strengths
Maybe your daughter is in love with practicing her trumpet but hates math and science. Introducing her to music theory is a great way to take that love for music and put it to use learning math and, later, even physics! If your son is a voracious reader, use that love of fiction to encourage him to build his own fictional landscape using Legos and whatever else he can find. This will show him how engineering is important in world-building and might help him be more receptive to those sections of his classes.
Balancing Checkbooks Isn’t a Thing Anymore
When we were kids our parents could teach us the value of understanding math by having us help them balance their checkbooks. Unfortunately, that particular lesson has become quite outdated. So, what should you do instead? We’ve offered a couple of examples above. Here are a few more ideas to help get you started.
Whether you give your kids allowances or have them earn money by doing chores, putting them in charge of their own money is a great way to teach your kids how to budget, save, and even invest!
Calling All Shoppers:
Take your kids to the grocery store with you and have them keep track of how much a cartload of groceries costs and then have them see if they can figure out the sales tax before the clerk finishes ringing you up. You can also have them figure out the value of a product by teaching them how to figure out the actual unit price of, for example, sheets of toilet paper in a roll.
DIY Cleaning Supplies:
A great way to teach kids about chemistry is to have them make their own soaps and other cleaning supplies. What do they need to dissolve a stain? Why does it work? Plus, this is a great way to do a simpler (and easier to clean up) baking soda and vinegar “volcano.”
At Home Chemistry Lab:
Yes, really. Who doesn’t love watching a bottle rocket made from dropping Alka-Seltzer into a two-litre of coke? Be honest, you never actually grew out of thinking those were cool, did you? There are all sorts of cheap DIY “volcanoes” (we mentioned one in the DIY cleaning section) that you can create at home to illustrate how awesome and fun physical sciences can be.
Build a Fort:
While this could probably be replicated using blankets in the living room, we’re talking about helping your kids figure out how to build (and then actually helping them build) their own forts or tree houses. How big does it have to be? How do you make sure it will support the weight of your kids and their friends? How tall should it be? How do you keep the rain out? Just don’t tell your kids that they were doing engineering until after it’s done.
Taking care of a small garden and having a compost pile (or worm bucket) can be great ways to teach your kids about photosynthesis and other ecological issues. When trying to show how interesting biology can be, though, that’s field trip time. Call ahead to your local zoo or wildlife refuge and ask for a behind-the-scenes tour so that your kids can see how animals grow and are fed and nurtured…and, of course, every kid’s favourite part: that everybody really does, in fact, poop.
These are just a few ideas to help your kids learn to enjoy (or at least tolerate) STEM subjects. The trick, as you can probably tell by now, is to find a way to relate those subjects to what they love right now. Relating seemingly unrelated subjects to each other won’t just serve them well in their GPAs, it will help them out in other areas of their lives, too!