Four Ways to Get Kids Invested in Science at a Young Age
In today’s rapidly advancing world, science and technology are becoming more important for a well-rounded education. Unfortunately, schools in the U.S. are falling behind other countries.
The most recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that students in the U.S. have made some improvements in their test scores, but they’re still far behind other countries. On the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, 15-years olds in the United States ranked just 27th out of 64 countries. Students in much smaller countries like Estonia, Macao and Vietnam scored significantly higher than our students.
Given that more jobs in the future are likely to be science-based, it’s critical for children to become invested in science early in life. Some industries, like the green technology industry, are fast growing and require skills in various scientific practices. There is also a higher demand for doctors and nurses as the population grows older. Even the effort it takes to move lab equipment and samples requires specialized skill sets.
The training kids need for a career in top-paying STEM fields begins with an aptitude for science, and that requires that they be introduced early on in life. You can get them started on the path to science by giving them opportunities to get hands-on and have fun at the same time.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. It refers to classes that have a focus in one or more of those disciplines. Even though scientists believe STEM programs and courses have room for improvement in America, they are still the best option for building an interest in science.
The federal government has provided funding to implement STEM courses in grades K-12. Taking these courses in elementary school, middle school and high school sets the stage for earning a STEM degree in college. STEM majors are increasing in relevance and many are considered to be highly valuable because job growth in their related fields is outpacing the average for all occupations.
There are also many free, interactive STEM courses available online, where you can work with children to learn science topics in a more relaxed learning environment. The Khan Academy offers free courses in mathematics, science, biology, physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, health and medicine, the cosmos, and electrical engineering.
Science Games and Hobbies
When kids are having fun they are more likely to internalize the experience and what they learn. Games are an effective way to get kids to keep an open mind about science and see it from a perspective that’s independent of a classroom.
A chemistry set is a good way to peak the interest of kids who like performing experiments. They are fun pastimes for both kids and parents do to together, and some sets are so advanced they require adult supervision.
3D models of buildings, machines and the human body teach kids critical thinking skills while teaching them science and engineering basics.
There’s also a huge selection of games that involve circuit boards and robotics, which teach physics and engineering essentials. Many of the greatest minds in these fields started out by building and designing workable models at home. K’NEX and Legos, for example, have long been popular toys for kids who enjoy creating machinery and electronics. Others, like robotics building kits help to build interest for children who are less creative, but who still want to build things.
A few decades ago sports camps use to be the most popular way for kids to spend their summer break. Now science camps are growing in number. They are also becoming highly specialized so that focus is on a specific type of science or technology.
The great thing about science camps is that students are among their peers. They are surrounded by dozens of other kids who have similar interests and think science is cool. This helps to build a positive connotation in their mind that can influence their future education.
Science Buddies maintains a quality directory of science camps around the USA.
Many large cities now have science museums and centers that are dedicated to sharing the progress of technology over the years. Typically they include hands-on exhibits that help visitors get a better understanding of how scientific practices work. Science museums cater to people of all ages, and most have special sections just for kids.You can usually find local museums and centers using Google and typing in “Science museum” or “Science center” with local search allowed.
One of the most impressive science museums in the country is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, TX. Like other museums it offers special programs designed for schools, families and kids.
Kids are curious by nature. Giving them an outlet to explore and learn is often enough to give them a positive perception of science. There are so many facets of science and technology there’s usually something of interest for everyone, and with the many fun introductions to STEM available today, it’s easy for kids to find what they love.