STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is a vastly broad grouping of subjects and skills. It teaches students a scientific and calculated way of approaching problems and producing solutions. Generally speaking, boys are more than likely already interested in some facet of the STEM process (creating, producing, designing, or in the more technical aspects) and perhaps just do not realise the amount to which their interests are already aligned. For some boys though, encouraging an interest in STEM may be a little bit more of a challenge. At school, teachers work to design a great STEM program that grabs a student’s interest and further develops the passion they already have for problem solving. At home, there is also plenty that parents can do to partner with their son’s teachers in order to foster an interest in learning STEM.
STEM is about experimenting, questioning and evaluating information
As a parent you are able to encourage first hand, your son’s natural curiosity by making STEM more accessible in their everyday life. Some boys may not need much encouragement, but parents should try to welcome the ‘why’ questions and encourage them to think critically about things and how they work. STEM encourages problem solving and critical thinking so it is a perfect opportunity for your son to explore without there being a ‘right/wrong’ answer.
STEM activities do not always use technology
STEM activities typically involve a challenge of some kind that requires boys to use available materials to process ideas and produce solutions, and the activities do not always have to involve using technology. Cooking at home is a perfect and tasty opportunity for boys to practice their math, and learn a bit of basic chemistry and problem solving skills. Becoming the home’s IT support or assisting with do-it-yourself projects are both opportunities for your son to practice STEM skills and spark an interest in learning more. There are also home recycling opportunities – instead of taking old technology to the tip, let your son take them apart and investigate the inner workings and research whether there are any possible uses for any of the parts individually.
STEM is hands-on
The benefit of the STEM subjects for boys is that it is practical and hands-on with multiple answers and directions to explore, and opportunities to experiment, which can make it so interesting for young inquisitive minds. STEM skills are incredibly accessible utilising the interests your son already has, whether it is mechanics, building and construction, computer games (such as Minecraft), cooking, music, or art – there are related STEM skills that they are acquiring just by engaging in their hobbies.
STEM is an evolving career path
Being able to play around with STEM related activities at home provides opportunity to encourage and discuss with your son the possibility of studying STEM at school. Support your son’s love of tinkering and constructing, and encourage him not to simply stop at the tinkering stage but to actively think about the real-world applications of what they are playing with, and the skills they are learning.
Careers in STEM related fields are growing fast, and these skills apply to more industries than many realise. As more and more professions become reliant on technology, a sound understanding of STEM will benefit your son in almost any career they choose to follow.
If you can spark an interest in STEM while your son is at home, in an environment where he feels comfortable and supported, there is a strong possibility that he will enjoy studying STEM at school and beyond.
Written by Stephanie Comino, Preparatory Science Facilitator, The Scots College.
Stephanie is the Prep Science Facilitator at The Scots College in Bellevue Hill. Stephanie graduated from The University of New South Wales with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education.