Making STEM a Part of Everyday LifeBrought to You by Stratford School
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics: studying the STEM disciplines in schools can help kids build confidence, hone critical thinking and problem solving and develop soft skills that will be essential to them in their adult lives. However, STEM learning doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom. Applying STEM principles to everyday life can help your child understand them in a real-world context. It’s a great way to become more comfortable and confident in learning STEM!
Shopping and budgeting
There are a lot of essential life skills that children aren’t taught in school: how to do taxes, basic car maintenance and understanding finances. The responsibility of teaching life skills falls to parents, understandably. That’s why it’s a good idea to introduce your child to certain skills early. STEM can help teach important life skills, especially budgeting and handling money.
You can integrate mathematical skills into everyday life in a useful way. If you have younger children, look at your shopping list together. Count the total number of items on the list. Have them guess how much each one will cost. With older kids, you can talk about adding tax to the total and how that’s calculated. Ask them how much money you’ll need to have to pay for everything. How much change will be left if you pay with cash?
Budgeting can introduce the concept of money management to your kids, too. If they receive an allowance and they’re hoping to save their money for a toy, game or book, help them figure out how much they’ll need to save in a specific time period. If they do extra chores to receive extra allowance, how much sooner can they buy what they want? They’ll start to understand the concepts of saving, spending and financial planning.
Baking and cooking
Applying STEM concepts in the kitchen is one of the easiest and most helpful ways to integrate them into daily life. Baking and cooking teach kids about adding and subtracting by measuring ingredients. They also get to learn about how food changes form through cold, heat or by mixing together ingredients with certain properties. The skills they learn in the kitchen will be useful when they’re older … and it’s fun!
With younger children, start with basic kitchen skills. Show them how to look at the entire recipe first so they can make sure they have everything they need. Have them guess what the meal will taste like because of the ingredients. Spicy, sweet, rich, sour, salty or bitter? Is it a hot or cold dish? About how much time will it take to cook or bake?
Older kids can help you prepare or measure out ingredients, mix them together or keep an eye on something that’s cooking on the stove or baking (with your supervision, of course). If you don’t have enough of a certain ingredient, is there something else you can substitute for it? If something you bake or cook doesn’t taste the way you wanted it to, how can you make it better next time? Not only do kids learn math, science and problem solving in the kitchen, but they also learn time management, patience and an appreciation for food.
Encouraging and nurturing your child’s curiosity is an easy way to make STEM an everyday part of their life. Remember not to try too hard and force learning if they’re not interested in a specific activity. For example, maybe your child doesn’t seem to like learning about money through grocery shopping, but they are always eager to help when you’re working on the car or fixing something around the house. They may enjoy hands-on projects more than crunching numbers. And that’s great! Putting up a shelf or showing them how to check the oil in your car can teach them about technology or engineering.
When your child shows interest in a certain subject, think of ways to nurture that interest using STEM. If they like video games, introduce them to games with puzzles or building elements, like Minecraft. Are they interested in coding? Look into free, fun online courses with Khan Academy or Code.org. Have you got an avid reader? Take them to the library frequently. Ask them what they like to read or have them describe the plot of their latest book to you.
A comprehensive STEM curriculum like Stratford’s can set your child up for success. However, having fun with STEM every day outside of school can help kids integrate those skills into their daily lives. Using STEM principles in real-world scenarios will get kids comfortable with the concepts, encouraging mastery and proficiency by looking at problems in a different way.