How to build an engineer: Start Young with STEM Education

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These core concepts are a critical, essential portion of a child’s education to connect to a large and rapidly growing workforce. One way parents and educators can help improve children’s STEM literacy is through early introduction. By adding STEM into early childhood education, children are set up for success with the opportunity to gain comfort and passion in these subjects. 

Engineering is one of the core STEM pillars and is connected with successful, lucrative career paths. There are many ways parents and educators can promote engineering education and increase interest in this subject. In this article, you will learn about how to build engineering skills during early education and how to incorporate lessons into classroom curriculum and/or at home learning. 

Stimulating an interest in STEM education from a young age

Children are naturally curious. They often ask questions and seek answers about the world around them. Parents and educators can use this to their advantage when introducing STEM to their children/students. STEM learning has many real-world applications and connections that can be used to introduce concepts and show value. 

As early as preschool, there are STEM kits and lessons to help children gain fundamental engineering skills. Kits designed for age 2-10 learners take a simple and effective approach to introducing STEM to students. To ensure they have a positive learning experience and are not intimidated by these new, foreign concepts. Many of them also focus on improving 21st-century skills and motor skills, providing lessons benefit of STEM literacy, early childhood progression, and early social interactions.

Encouraging STEM subjects within underrepresented groups in schools

Diversity across employees is key to the current and future success in the STEM workforce in the United States and internationally. There is an underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM college programs and careers. Pew Research reported, “women make up a large majority of all workers in health-related jobs, but remain underrepresented in other job clusters, such as the physical sciences, computing and engineering.” They also found that, “Black and Hispanic adults are less likely to earn degrees in STEM than other degree fields, and they continue to make up a lower share of STEM graduates relative to their share of the adult population.”

One way to increase the diversity in the STEM workforce is to introduce STEM to underrepresented groups in schools. This can be accomplished through showing successful STEM professionals who closely resemble the underrepresented groups. This gives children the motivation to pursue STEM degrees and careers with people to look up to in these areas. Another impactful approach is to bring in guest speakers and implement mentorship programs. The STEM curriculum is often seen as difficult, which leads to students avoiding these courses. Mentors are a great resource for students to lean on for advice, assistance, and insights as they navigate their education and future.

Tips to engage your child with engineering using STEM

Engaging children in engineering can be a difficult task, especially during early education. Below is a list of tips for how to implement engineering lessons and get children excited about engineering learning.

Tip 1: Make Learning Fun - Add Variety to Lesson Plans

Adding variety to lesson plans is a great way to get students engaged and excited about STEM learning. This can be done by changing the environment or using different topics/subjects to facilitate the lesson. For example, STEM Sports® uses sports to facilitate STEM learning. Each curriculum kit connects STEM lessons to a different sport and real world examples, this gets left and right brained learners involved in the lesson and increases the chances of finding a subject that interests each student. 

Tip 2: Purchase and Implement Engineering Kits

Engineering kits are a great way to facilitate guided lessons with students at home, in the classroom, or during after school programs. STEM kits are helpful in adding engineering to the curriculum because they include directions, worksheets, and other materials that make it easy to implement. Many kits are turnkey, which means they come with everything needed to implement the lesson. These make a great gift for children who are interested in engineering and want to improve their skills in this area.

Tip 3: Connect Lessons to Engineering Careers

STEM Sports® believes that students benefit when they see how what they are learning connects to the real world. This can be done by connecting lessons to potential careers that use these skills. Below are examples of engineering careers to motivate children.

  • Aerospace Engineer
  • Biomedical Engineer 
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Environmental Safety Health Engineer 
  • Mechanical Engineer 
  • Nuclear Engineer 

Click here to see a full list of STEM jobs in Sports curated by the STEM Sports® team.

Tip 4: Utilize Hands-on Lesson Plans

Hands-on learning is an interactive approach used by educators and facilitators to increase student engagement. This learning method has been linked to increased retention of curricula and better scores on standardized tests. 

To learn more about how to facilitate hands-on learning with your children/students, read this blog.

Tip 5: Offer Support and Create an Inclusive Environment

STEM subjects can be intimidating to students. One way to help children conquer this fear and engage in STEM learning is to create an inclusive classroom environment. This can be done easily by supporting students and welcoming any questions they may have about the lesson. This small change can be the difference in children understanding the curriculum and continuing to engage in future engineering lessons.

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