Without a doubt, this term has manifested itself into the education buzzword du jour.
At dinner tables, PTA meetings, and teacher conferences across the United States, STEM – the umbrella term for science, technology, engineering and mathematic academic fields – is the new king of conversations.
And, it’s with good reason: according to the U.S. Department of Education, STEM degree holders hold the highest paying salaries on average.
No doubt, parents who wish the best future for their children are keeping this in mind when advising young hopefuls on possible career choices.
But, is the eventual lucrative payout the only merit to a STEM education?
We don’t think so.
Here’s a list of three reasons why we believe STEM education is important, plus a few tips for incorporating STEM education outside of the classroom:
First, STEM Teaches Us How to Problem-Solve
Climate change. Food and water security. Poverty. Natural Disasters. Global Pandemics. These are all real-world problems that current and future generations will face.
And, while STEM degrees are not necessarily prerequisites for tackling these challenges head on, our planet needs individuals that are well-versed in the art of problem-solving.
Lucky for us, STEM education gives students the groundwork for solving these pressing challenges. Whether trained through the scientific method or the engineering design process, STEM provides the tools and strategies to both understand complex situations and design solutions.
“I want my kids to understand the world, so as they grow up, they can make better, more informed decisions.
I particularly like to connect everyday occurrences and current events with STEM so my kids can observe the link between their lives and the world around them.
For example, when my daughter suffered from allergies, her first instinct was to clean her room and keep the windows shut in order to keep out irritants. But, by using STEM concepts, we learned it’s actually better to allow good bacteria from the outside air in to regulate her environment.
By practicing this regularly, my daughter now tends to take a more research-based approach to situations instead of relying on instincts.”
– Dean Sauer, BioPop Co-Founder, B.A.Sc. Biology
STEM Also Teaches Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is the objective analysis of facts to form an unbiased, rational, and skeptical judgement.
Not to get too political on you, but – thanks to the rise of sponsored clickbait – we are facing a “fake news” pandemic. Ordinary people – and even people within extraordinary positions of power – hold wildly inaccurate beliefs, simply because a “news” website stated it.
This is the result of a breakdown in critical thinking.
Critical thinking – and the STEM disciplines – give individuals an organized process to form beliefs. Without critical thinking, we cannot be effective problem-solvers.
Critical thinking teaches us to be skeptical and ask questions. And, through these questions, we can form sound judgements that lead to innovative solutions.
“I tend to approach things from a physics framework. And physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy.”
– Elon Musk, Inventor, Engineer, and Badass Critical Thinker
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STEM Education Prepares Individuals for a Rapidly-Advancing Future
There’s no doubt about it – our world is rapidly becoming more advanced.
Gone will be the days where one can repair Dad’s car with simply a toolbox. Even today’s cars are highly electronic and computerized.
STEM will be the new toolbox.
As automation becomes more commonplace, the jobs of the future will require advanced technological literacy and even skills in data analysis.
How will our children combat this? With a solid foundation in STEM. By becoming familiar with STEM tools at an early age, current and future generations will easily adapt to our rapidly-changing world.
“We look at science as something very elite, which only a few people can learn. That’s just not true. You just have to start early and give kids a foundation. Kids live up, or down, to expectations.”
– Mae Jemison, Engineer, Physician & NASA Astronaut
How to Introduce STEM at Home
Interested in introducing STEM to your child? Here’s a list of ideas to incorporate STEM into your household:
- Keep science toys at home (Tip: Dino Pets make excellent science toys and teach kids about biology)
- Field trips to science museums
- Visit a farm
- Conduct science experiments at home (and, while you’re at it, check out our list of summer science activities!)
- Grow a garden
- Learn how to code
- Build a treehouse
- Grab a telescope and look at the stars
- Teach your kids how to cook and bake (can you also invent recipes on your own?)
- Make a compost
- Build a remote-controlled car
- Take apart electronics (can you put them back together?)
- Build a Rube-Goldberg machine