STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It was initiated by the National Science Foundation and the term gained more traction when Barack Obama, the then President of the United States emphasized the need for STEM learning in the USA to maintain its global leadership.
STEM, however, is more than an acronym. It is an approach to learning and development wherein these four disciplines — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are cohesively taught. It focuses on bridging the learning gap that traditional education does not cover by putting children at the core of the learning experience; making them active learners rather than passive listeners.
STEM penetrates our everyday lives. From exercising, playing, working and even cooking, STEM is evident. When kids wonder why the potatoes get soft when they are boiled but eggs get hardened under the same condition, it is STEM that gives us an explanation.
Now, I keep mentioning STEM as a whole because it is an interdisciplinary field and each subject is not taught in isolation but are all intertwined with each other. Science and Mathematics birthed development in technology and with the application of Engineering, the world keeps building and innovating new products and services that make our life easier.
STEM can be taught from the very mundane activities. Baking, for example, is an excellent way to introduce STEM learning; kids learn about mathematics through measuring, they learn more about the science of why an ingredient or the lack of it makes the entire mix rise or fall; why temperature matters and so much more. Children are innately curious about their environment so it’s never too early to introduce STEM to kids. STEM activities are not exactly about planning lots of activities that require “expensive” definite materials and processes. It is more about developing learning habits of inquiry and critical thinking skills.
Why is STEM important for kids?
It encourages self guided learning:
STEM stirs up kids to test and experience things for themselves and learn from those experiences to reach correct outcomes, rather than leaning on what the textbooks say. Unlike the traditional education, it incites curiosity in the kids; making them ask themselves the question ‘why?’, and seeking the answers. This makes the learning fun and relevant. Kids are able to reflect on the ‘why’ which is often the most important part of learning.
It builds a great foundation for problem solving:
Every product or service at its core offers a solution to a problem. Every profession ranging from astronauts to marketers, designers, doctors, engineers, accountants and other occupations diverse as they may seem are all proffering a solution to a problem. Everyone works as a ‘problem solver” and STEM builds the right foundation for problem solving by strengthening the inherent abilities of the child and building a positive attitude towards problem solving which leads to meta-cognition and a growth mindset. Irrespective of the field a child goes into, STEM is always beneficial.
It aids language/communication development:
STEM helps with literacy, communication and comprehension skills. STEM nurtures kids to work independently but also collaboratively. Asides from learning a lot of soft skills like teamwork, empathy and adaptability, kids also learn to express themselves and communicate with each other and also comprehend what they are hearing or learning.
It sparks creativity:
It is never too early to introduce kids to STEM. In fact, introducing STEM to them at an early age sparks creativity. Children are innately curious and are such great sponges absorbing knowledge. As they are introduced to these scientific and technological concepts, they grow up to not only be consumers of the technology but pioneers and makers of it by creatively coming up with their own ideas and building useful tools for the world.
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