STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) is important, but less than half of teens are completing science courses through to grade 12 according to a report published by Let’s Talk Science, a London, Ont.-based organization aiming to motivate and empower youth using the STEM subjects.
STEM education not only drives the economy through the promotion of business innovation, but it also increases the employability, as well as the in-demand critical thinking and analytical skills of students who pursue STEM studies. Accordingly, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) have predicted that almost 75 per cent of new jobs between 2009 and 2018 will be in the STEM fields.
Despite their relevance, students can be deterred by the difficulty of STEM studies, or even by a general lack of awareness for their importance and applicability. So what can parents do to engage their kids in these fields? Bonnie Schmidt, the founder of Let’s Talk Science, advises a three-pronged approach:
1. Talk to Your Kids!
Parents play a pivotal influencing role in their children’s lives, especially on their choices for post-secondary education. According to Let’s Talk Science’s report, 76 percent of student respondents said that parents have the greatest influence on their educational direction, followed by teachers at 24 percent.
“Parents can talk to their kids and get them to realize that they can be empowered through STEM education,” says Bonnie. “They build important skills which are necessary in any job such as critical thinking, problem-solving and the ability to communicate.”
2. Bring STEM into the home!
Everyday tasks such as making a family meal or taking a bath can be made into a scientific inquiry. Turn cooking into a chemistry experiment, or make this year’s garden a biology project! At a young age, being inquisitive is a natural tendency for children discovering their world, and Bonnie encourages parents to foster and engage in this process of learning.
3. Get them into STEM extra-curriculars!
Canada offers a number of STEM-focused extracurricular programming, likely accessible through your local museum, science centre or national/provincial park. Scouts Canada, for example, in partnership with Let’s Talk Science and various Canadian science and technology museums, places particular emphasis on STEM activities. Sarah Kallesoe, age 18, has been a Scout since the age of five and raves about the multifaceted and experiential kind of learning that Scouts can offer. “You learn so many things. From project budgeting, building robots (see photo below), and designing windmills, to extracting DNA from kiwis and strawberries,” she says. Actua is another notable leader in STEM programming, a charitable organization and national network of colleges and universities that delivers STEM programming to more than 225,000 youth.
With many resources to choose from, parents can access a wealth of knowledge and activities to help their kids enjoy the wonderful world of STEM. See below for more information!
Let’s Talk Science website: www.letstalkscience.ca/
Scouts Canada website: www.scouts.ca/
Actua website: http://www.actua.ca/