STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills are in demand and the number of unfulfilled jobs within this sector is increasing rapidly. By 2023 science, research, engineering and technology jobs are expected to account for 7.8% of all jobs in the UK, which is the equivalent to 2.5m jobs.
What is STEM education?
STEM education integrates the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math to provide children with a hands-on learning experience through the application of real-life scenarios. For example, instead of teaching math and science in isolation, the STEM teaching strategy teaches the subjects together to demonstrate how they complement each other.
Problem-solving plays a key part in STEM learning and children are encouraged to ask questions, make mistakes and learn from their experiences. Owing to the increasingly digital world we live in, children have a wealth of information available at their fingertips and no longer need to memorise facts. STEM education focuses on teaching young people how to apply skills, knowledge and research to solve a problem.
Why is STEM education important?
Now we know what STEM education is, why is it important?
STEM learning prepares children to adapt to our changing world and become the future innovators and inventors that our economy needs. Teaching STEM skills to young children helps to prepare them for school and their future careers.
STEM education is also a key part of bridging ethnic and gender gaps in STEM subjects. Overall, women and ethnic groups are underrepresented within the industry, which is something STEM Learning provider is passionate about changing.
In 2019, there were over a million women working in core-STEM roles in the UK, which is a huge step in the right direction. However, more work needs to be done to change the old-fashioned attitudes for these important roles.
By teaching these subjects in school it allows and encourages young girls to pursue careers within STEM fields and close the gender gap.
STEM activities for early years and secondary learners
STEM activities are engaging, child-led and focus on discovering how things work. Children are naturally inquisitive and STEM is a great way to encourage independent learning.
Early years STEM activities
It’s never too early to introduce STEM learning to young children. Here are some great STEM activities to enjoy with your pre-schooler using items around the home.
Build a ramp: Use a piece of cardboard to create a ramp and experiment by rolling different objects down it, including some that won’t roll such as blocks.
Create shadows: Make shadow puppets or use objects to teach young children how shadows are created by light.
Water play: Introduce children to the concepts of volume, weight and measurements by testing whether different objects sink or float. Experiment by filling an object such as a toy boat with stones to make it sink.
Bubbles: Teach young children basic science by creating a bubble mix solution. Encourage children to talk about the different colours they can see in the bubbles.
Mirrors: Mirrors are fascinating objects to help children learn. Simply place objects on a mirrored tile to learn about different items and their reflection.
Secondary learners STEM activities
Lego: Lego is the perfect STEM activity for secondary learners as it puts science, technology, engineering and math skills into practice. Try building a Lego rainbow or a famous landmark.
Build a volcano: A fun and simple science experiment for children is building a volcano. Use baking soda and vinegar to create a volcano eruption and watch your child’s face light up.
Create a symmetrical snowflake: Use materials such as white paper, cotton wool and cotton buds to teach children about symmetry and patterns.
Make a spinning wheel: Ask children to create a wheel using a paper plate and ice lolly sticks to show the changing seasons.
Build a bird feeder: A pine cone bird feeder is simple to make and will teach young children valuable building skills.
Technology and STEM
Technology is advancing rapidly and is a huge part of STEM education. Children should be encouraged to be innovative and participate actively in their education rather than learning passively. Future careers in STEM are needed to help the world deal with technological advancements and changes in society.
How much did you know about STEM before reading this article? Share your thoughts in the comments below.