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STEM education is such a buzz word around here these days. But what actually is it and how can you promote STEM Learning at Home?
What is STEM/STEAM education?
Chances are probably pretty good that you have heard the term STEM (or even STEAM) floating around. It’s a total buzz word these days. Both are acronyms for a whole mouthful of words.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics.
STEAM stands for all of the above PLUS art. And as with most things in the education world, the concepts are not new.
These fields have been around for ages, now they just have a fancy name/acronym to go with them.
But as an educator and parent, I have to tell you – I love promoting STEM/STEAM education with my own kiddos. I think it is so important to give them opportunities to learn more about these fields.
Do Not Get Overwhelmed
It is really beneficial for your kids to have exposure to STEM topics. But before you get too overwhelmed, I want you to know that they probably ARE already exposed to them! Between school and play, it’s easy to get wrapped up in buzzwords and think that STEM is only about high tech robotics that come with a high pricetag.
Simple building toys like LEGO bricks and K’Nex are absolutely STEM toys (hello! building? engineering? yup!). Simple science experiments (Mentos dropped in a soda bottle, anyone?) teach kids to make predictions (hypothesis!), carry out a process and watch (observation!) and explain what happened (conclusion!).
Incorporate STEM Learning at Home
So it is on that note, that I want to share some super easy ways to incorporate science, technology, engineering, mathematics and art at home. Like I said above, you are more than likely exposing your kids to more STEAM than you realize! That’s awesome! For the purposes of this post, I am referring to “at home” to mean “not at school.”
Have a dedicated space for creating full of art supplies.
This one is probably Lily’s favorite. It does not have to be complicated and it does not have to cost a fortune. Take advantage of back-to-school stock up sales and grab various art supplies. Put them in baskets or organizers that are easy for kids to access. Encourage them to create and use the supplies however they’d like. The dollar store is also a good place to pick up art supplies.
I try to keep the following supplies on hand:
- Construction paper
- Single Hole Punch
- Stampers/Ink pads
Load the tablet with educational apps.
Look – I get it. Screen time. AM I RIGHT? It’s a constant struggle over here but a fight that I am willing to fight. I try to check in on our family tablets frequently to make sure that the only apps on there are ones that I approve of. (Yes, the app store is password protected but I still find random apps now and then that I didn’t put on there.)
Mindless screen time is something I try to limit, but I’m also realistic and I know that it’s a battle that will wage here infinitely.
One thing that helps is to have apps that are truly educational on hand for the kids to play. Certain YouTube channels are very educational, though you will have to decide if you will let your kids on YT or not. (For example, Landon LOVES watching NASA’s videos while Lily loves DIY craft videos. If you have a kid who loves horses, you just might want to watch the Spirit Riding Free channel – hint hint, I’m biased. Do you see anyone familiar on there?!)
Some of our favorite educational apps include:
Round up some educational science and engineering kits.
I have to admit- I love picking up these kits when I find them on sale and putting them away for a rainy day. My kids LOVE them! Even better, the older they get, they can work on them together or even sometimes independently. We have done everything from crystal-growing kits to basic electricity circuit kits. The kids can’t seem to get enough of them. Plus, since Bob is decidedly the “mechanically savvy” person in our relationship, many times the kits are great quality time that he can spend with the kids.
Some of our faves:
Design & Drill(R) Space Circuits: Um, is it ANY surprise how much Landon loves this set? My junior astronaut can combine his love for space and basic engineering to complete the circuit challenges.
With Space Circuits, STEM-gineers use a kid-safe power drill and smaller bolts to complete awesome astronaut challenges like wiring circuits to spin fans and light lights, all the while building basic math and engineering skills, confidence, and creativity too.
Great for ages 5+.
STEM at play! Series: We had so much fun with the STEM at play! SPLASH Kit. We have gotten through about one third of the 23 included experiments. I love watching the kids work their way through the scientific process!
The STEM at play! Series introduces kids in grades 3–12 to the wonders of STEM skills through a wide variety of experiment and activity kits. Ranging from slime to combustion science to a create-your-own-candy kit, each kit comes with a lab and career guide detailing each experiments’ instructions and a study of the particular field of science the kit explores. Great for ages 8+.
Tinkering Labs’ Electric Motors Catalyst: THIS. SET. IS. AWESOME! My kids are always asking for science sets that include things like motors, wiring, etc. This kit really puts the design control in the kids’ hands and that is what I love the most about it. Landon just completed a LEGO robotics camp (see below) and is ALL ABOUT adding motors to things.
This set from Tinkering Labs will really encourage your kids to think outside the box and be creative as they use the contents to make their own powered creations. This kit allows kids to build doodling robots, power electric model cars, add motors to LEGO creations, and more! Great for ages 8+ (or younger with supervision).
There are also many simple science experiments that you can to using common household items!
Classic building toys help kids practice motor skills, spatial reasoning skills, engineering basics and more.
As I already mentioned, don’t over look simplicity! Building toys are a fantastic way to let kids express their creativity while practicing all kinds of STEM related skills!
Some of our favorite building toys include:
Find local camps or classes for robotics, engineering, coding and other STEM education opportunities.
Okay, so technically this one is not at your home. But outside of the traditional school environment, I want you to know how many amazing programs there are out there! Check with your township, county, municipality, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc. Many of these organizations/places offer all kinds of camps and educational opportunities.
This summer Landon had the time of his life at a Junior LEGO Robotics camp in a neighboring town!! He learned basic coding skills, robotics and more. It really opened my eyes to some of the awesome STEM education available these days!
Additionally, there are many recreational venues that are starting to offer STEM-based activities for kids. If you have an iFly Indoor Skydiving location nearby, look into their STEM curriculum!
Keep an eye on local museums and libraries – you never know when a cool STEM program or exhibit will be offered!
Keep it simple, keep it fun, keep it engaging. Don’t underestimate how many things your kids already do that reinforce STEM!
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