STEM Education Benefits All Kids, Even the Artists and Writers
As a kid I was obsessed with geology. My bookshelf overflowed with books about volcanoes, rocks and minerals, earthquakes, and other planets, and I used my elementary school science fairs as an opportunity to try identifying random rocks I found. Did I grow up to become a geologist? No, not at all, but my early exposure to STEM got me to ask questions about the world around me and taught me how to investigate my interests both inside and outside of the classroom.
National STEM Day is celebrated annually on November 8th to emphasize the importance of introducing children to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Each year on this day the internet is flooded with stories about how STEM education is important because it sets children on a path to work in high paying, in-demand jobs. While that certainly could be one benefit, STEM education teaches valuable skills that all children will benefit from, even those who don’t grow up to pursue STEM professionally.
STEM invites curiosity
All science starts with a question: why does the moon change shape? What makes soda fizzy? How do animals communicate? STEM educators actively encourage children to be inquisitive and investigate the world around them. Whether it is by testing a hypothesis in a lab or checking out a library book, learning STEM is an exciting process of discovery. Each answer breeds more questions, and STEM education helps to foster a natural love of learning.
STEM fosters creative problem-solving
Learning STEM is all about trial-and-error. Whether they are testing a hypothesis in science class, solving a difficult math question, or programming a computer game, STEM challenges students to approach a problem from multiple different angles. They learn how to create new, innovative solutions, and this form of creative thinking can be found behind many of the world’s most influential inventions and discoveries. Beyond STEM, a person with strong problem solving skills will be a valued member of any team.
STEM builds perseverance
In addition, STEM teaches children that failure is a normal part of the process. If one approach doesn’t work, then try the next one. Rather than giving up in the face of adversity, STEM teaches kids to keep testing new hypotheses, running new lines of code, and trying new strategies until, at last, it works! This resilience is an important tool for every child to build because it prepares them to overcome both academic and personal challenges.
STEM teaches teamwork
Hollywood likes to portray people in STEM as lone geniuses, obsessing over their research in a cramped lab until finally, through sheer intelligence, they discover the solution. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The field of STEM is defined by constant sharing of ideas and collaboration among teams. While working together in lab groups, children learn how to communicate their ideas to others, how to respect the ideas of their peers, and how to compromise when there are disagreements. Communication and teamwork are often rated among the most important skills that employers look for in candidates.
Early education reduces the gender gap in STEM
It is well-known that women are underrepresented among many STEM professions. Currently, women comprise only 15% of engineers, 25% of programmers and computer scientists, and 40% of jobs related to the physical sciences. Less well-known is that many of the societal forces that steer women away from STEM begin impacting children at a very young age. Multiple studies have shown that children as young as six are more likely to associate math with men than women. Introducing young girls to STEM topics early and actively encouraging their curiosity can help counteract these social forces and keep the door to a career in STEM open.
STEM encourages environmental stewardship
The natural sciences are a key component to STEM education. Often through hands-on experiences, children learn about how the Earth supports life and how various plants and animals interact to form an ecosystem. Learning these topics at a young age helps children build an emotional connection to the natural areas around them and encourages them to be conscientious stewards of their local environment. Teaching these topics early can also help kids establish lifelong sustainable habits like reducing their waste and energy consumption.
Children who learn STEM build skills that will serve them well no matter where life takes them. At Science Naturally, we believe that books are a great way to foster STEM learning, and you can also check out some of these free online resources!