STEM – a concept widely known and most talked about in the field of education of young children. One of the reasons for its growing popularity is that Barack Obama, the former US President, emphasized STEM education for students in one of his addresses in order for the US to sustain its global leadership. But what is STEM? The majority of people only have basic knowledge of it; they are aware that STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and is a unique method of teaching and learning. However, the education board authorities and experts know that it’s so much more than that.
STEM-based education is a prototype and a major shift from the traditional education approach. It highlights the importance of learning the main subjects of STEM in a cohesive, hands-on manner rather than teaching each subject in isolation which as a result decreases the children’s ability to solve real-life/actual problems using these concepts. It further lowers their productivity and efficiency as they are unable to link the learned concepts to real-world situations. STEM-based education ensures there is no gap in conceptual comprehension by helping young students concentrate on its application and implementation in everyday scenarios.
This article will provide you with a thorough understanding of the meaning of STEM, its significance, and engaging activities that you can incorporate into your children’s lesson plans.
What is the meaning of STEM?
As we all know, STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These are the four main disciplines that STEM education chiefly focuses on. STEM is an effective educational approach adopted by the educational system for the betterment of today’s youth and future generations. It aims to help young children correlate and apply their classroom knowledge to real-world situations. It is a chance, an opportunity, for children going through the conventional school system to have a crucial and impactful role within society. The four disciplines of STEM education are combined into a single learning paradigm centered on practical and real-life applications, as opposed to being taught as distinct, independent topics. Children that participate in STEM education programs develop the skills and abilities needed to succeed in the diverse range of employment markets.
More than a decade ago, a variation of STEM was introduced, known as STEAM which added the subject of Arts to its multi-discipline teaching approach. Another variation of STEM was introduced, known as STREAM which included the subjects – Reading / Research and Arts. These variations have been developed mainly to concentrate on the foundations and provide the groundwork for important subjects that may help young individuals better prepare for the imminent future. It is all about learning, progressing, improving, and bolstering inventions and innovations to new levels.
Significance of STEM Education
1) The primary objective of STEM education is to prepare children for the future and enable them to meet the needs of the majority of labor markets that might require STEM skills.
2) This multi-disciplinary learning approach promotes project-based learning instead of the typical theory-based learning which makes the learning process much more pertinent, fun, and informative.
3) It promotes a hands-on learning approach with real-world applications which aids children in developing several professional skills like logical reasoning, leadership, teamwork, digital literacy, etc. as well as life skills such as creativity, confidence, curiosity, communication, adaptability, etc.
4) We live in a technologically advanced age; thus, it is essential for kids to be ready for the future in order to keep up with it. Children that undergo STEM education will be smart enough to understand any technology they are exposed to in today’s world.
5) It encourages children to try new things, make mistakes and learn lessons from these experiments and experiences on their own to find better ways to accomplish top and improved results. Children who learn this way become less dependent on textbooks and more self-reliant and competent.
6) One major importance of STEM is that it promotes gender equality. Subjects are not categorized based on gender; certain individuals and societal influencers, however, assign genders to both professions and subjects. With the help of STEM education, girls and boys both get equal opportunities to develop crucial skills, boost their employability rates, and make a difference in the world.
5 Fun STEM Activities for Kids
Since STEM education emphasizes the application of classroom learnings in real-life scenarios, you can help your children develop a keen interest in STEM subjects through games/activities and experiments. Here are some interesting and enjoyable activities and experiments you can do with your children to stimulate their fascination with STEM disciplines –
- Make a Cloud
Children find clouds quite fascinating and so it would be fun to make one using simple materials. In order to create an experimental cloud, you will need: (i) a transparent jar with a lid, (ii) hot water, (iii) ice, and (iv) hairspray. Follow the below-mentioned steps to form a cloud in the jar –
- Pour the hot water into the jar in a way that the sides of the jar are properly warmed up.
- Turn the lid of the jar upside down, place a lot of ice cubes on it and let it rest for 20-25 seconds.
- Slid the lid aside, spray a little hairspray into the jar and quickly place the lid with ice cubes back on the jar. Soon, a visible cloud will be formed inside the jar.
- As soon as you see condensation forming inside the jar, lift the lid and watch how the cloud escapes into the air.
- Invisible Ink
For this activity, you will need: (i) 1 lemon, (ii) a cotton swab, (iii) a sheet of paper, and (iv) sunlight. Follow the below-mentioned steps to make an invisible ink solution –
- Squeeze the juice out of the lemon, add a spoonful of water to the juice and mix it.
- Dip the cotton swab gently into the liquid and write or draw something on the white sheet of paper.
- Allow the liquid to dry off. When it is completely dried, the message or drawing will become invisible.
- Hold the paper close to the spot with maximum sunlight or near a light bulb to share or reveal your text or picture.
- Math with Pancakes
Cut the cardboard into multiple medium-sized round shapes. On each cutout, using a marker, write an equation like 7+4, 6-0, 7×3, or 9÷3 (based on your children’s math ability) on one side, and on the other, jot down the answer of the equation. Place these equation cut-outs on a flat surface or container. Hand your children a spatula, ask them to mentally solve the equation, and allow them to flip the cardboard pancakes to check if they answered correctly.
An earthquake is a reminder for us that the firm and solid ground we stand on can be shaken and may even get cracked. For this fun experiment, all you need is a large pan of Jell-O and buildings made out of toothpicks and marshmallows or apple pieces or sugar cubes. Explain to the children that Jell-O is the surface of the ground, toothpick marshmallows are the buildings, and ask them to observe how the ground moves when the container is tapped or moved from side to side. Allow them to determine how some buildings or constructions are stronger and more stable compared to others during an earthquake. This activity is a great way to introduce the concept of a natural disaster (earthquake) and through that the meaning of pressure, friction, convergent, and more to children.
- Binary Name
This is a fun activity to introduce and familiarise children with computer concepts like binary code, ASCII code, etc. Binary code assigns 0s and 1s to different characters, letters, symbols, and so on. Provide your children a list that includes all the letters and their binary denotations and give them a few jewelry-making items like beads and thread/cord. Allow your child to assign a color to 0, 1, and the space between each letter. For instance, 0=blue, 1=pink, and space=white. Let your child create a necklace of their name using binary code.