Easy Ways To Encourage STEM Activities & Opportunities At Home With Young Girls

By Cole Williams

If you are a parent that wants to offer your child difficult to read subjects like science, math, chemistry, physics and the like, but have no formal background in the sciences and missed the sign-up for a summer STEM program and are left wondering what sort of law abiding, good citizen, world saving adult your child will become or not become due to your decisions right now, fear not.

Teaching children the hard sciences can be obtainable and has not much to do with the hard subjects themselves and more to do with, believe it or not, artful approaches and mindsets, if you will. What child does not walk toward, like a lightening bug flickering in the night, words such as imagination, curiosity and play? How would they see themselves in relation to sciences if this was the way they were guided to see the topic(s)? Instead of a run for the hills look of terror they might dive in.

Traditionally our approach to teaching the sciences has been dry and objective fact pushing. Reinforced gender roles and assumptions of who’s good at what had solidified themselves like a cyclical disease in our classrooms for generations. We are still pushing past the era of men do science and women are homemakers and vestiges of that lifestyle are left like remnants in our culture that no one needs anymore*. I encourage you to seek them out, dig them up and let them go.

And although STEM programs are wonderful and are on the rise in our culture, there is plenty a parent can do to reinforce the idea of curious science exploration at home in the interim down times. Here is what I suggest, in no particular order, to bolster happy thoughts toward math and science for your children.

1. Use language and terms that are open and inviting, for example: curiosity of a child, explore with your imagination, name the creature yourself, don’t worry about right or wrong, and use your senses.
2. Create radio silence and initiate a trend of asking questions about the natural world yourself, I wonder what a rainbow actually is, I wonder how chickens are different colors, how does the TV work or where does the Internet live? Write these down in a notebook and make it fun to explore the strange and beautiful world we live in, draw, collect pictures, collage.
3. Encourage doodling.
4. Encourage independence.
5. Encourage boredom.
6. Supply the young’uns with prompts for education but not necessarily the answers. For example, buy a globe, a microscope, periodic table flashcards and erector sets. Let them play with them without needing a quiz or formal lesson.
7. Seek out gifts that are exploratory and require extra steps of invention and exploration, like a rock tumbler for example. Use the rock tumbler to explain local geology or teach about fossils.
8. Supplement the above steps with a family field trip to a rock formation, a butterfly identification walk in a state park, a water sampling excursion on a local lake. These things take more time but are often free and fun if the little ones see you into it too.
9. Mix science with art. Science coloring books that teach as well create are wonderful. Cue Pinterest. The idea is to allow access without drab rote drills.
10. Supply the home with a healthy mix of book titles that are not unilateral to one genre of reading.

Okay, #10 is where I come in. Many of the items on the list may be already employed in your home, and that is awesome, but do spend some time on #10 by taking a trip through the household DVD’s, Netflix queue and family library. Make a list of genre categories and check in with yourself. Do you want to be reading these books over and over? Are you tired of them? Is there diversity? Is there challenge? Are there books there that help explain the answers to the questions generated in #2 above?

I find that media is often gifted and the trends that our culture move through begin to take over like an unexplained force of nature. Do not feel bad if you want a makeover here and I am promoting on the cheap. (There are fantastic chemistry virtual reality programs that will spin electrons in the air for you, but we are not there yet.) Right now, we want to instill the love of imagination and curiosity, like Einstein, so supply a healthy mix of what I call the fundamentals, what is light, what is color, what is a black hole etc. Add in local flavor, our local birds, our local geology, our local watershed etc. Add in something fun, consult the popular science series for these or art coloring books.

Then add in some experiment books and make a box of supplies for your children to access. These are really great and sometimes messy or even need parent supervision, but they will love using their hands, building, experimenting and creating. Use the library, go the distance and find authors who are representing new topics and new characters, research what is out there via GoodReads or other book sites and use your power as a consumer to direct the future. It’s a real thing.

Maintaining this curiosity and imagination is what makes a good scientist. Memorizing facts can come later but we can’t revolutionize a theory or paradigm without creative thinking.

 

 

 

 

Cole W. Williams is an arrow-slinging idealist, advocate for critical thinking and curiosity, an all or nothing type of girl, a gold miner for truth. Passionately supporting emerging artists, randomly writing her own words, she stands for water, and for the river, she plants seeds of inspiration wherever she goes as the muse of being exactly who you are.

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