When you think of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, your mind probably conjures up images of little scientists pouring coloured liquids into beakers from Erlenmeyer flasks, or teeny bespectacled maths geniuses scribbling equations onto a blackboard.
The reality is though, that most STEM learning occurs outside the classroom. This article in The Conversation suggests the learning doesn’t need to stop once school is out. Your kids (and you) can keep learning at home by providing opportunities to deepen engagement with STEM.
Here are some things you can do at home with your little ones to show them how science happens in everyday life:
Bring science week home
Do your homework as a parent and have various science-themed activities at home. Spend a weekend making papier-mâché planets, take a trip to the National Planetarium and in the evening, wind down with a family space-themed movie (2001: A Space Odyssey, anyone?) During the week, weather permitting, head outside for some stargazing and identify the constellations.
If space feels too out of this world, dive deep into the seas while keeping your feet dry (if you want) by taking a trip to Aquaria KLCC. If you have a fish tank, get on the Internet together to find out about these aquatic friends. Younger kids would delight in Disney favourites Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, and you can use the opportunity to talk about conservation and ocean pollution.
Build them up
Children of all ages learn by doing – so why not use an old familiar to teach them about the world around them? Use Lego or other blocks to teach them about architecture, building stability and surface area. Kids close in age could undertake building challenges like creating the tallest tower. Pique the interest of older kids by trying your hand at technical Lego with moving parts. Use the opportunity to talk to them about mechanics. And besides your end product with the bricks, you also build family rapport, resilience and concentration.
Create a collection
Collections aren’t just for purveyors of fine art and scrapbooks aren’t just for hardcore crafters who roam the aisles of Spotlight. Kids of all ages can have a go and your collections can be as large or small as you like.
Start a scrapbook about the types of leaves you can find in your neighbourhood. Write down interesting facts about the trees – Is the coconut a fruit, seed or a nut? As you walk around collecting leaves, talk to your kids about how trees release oxygen, and about photosynthesis.
If you want to leaf leave that train of thought, why not tailor it to your circumstances – if you’re on a seaside holiday, collect different shells or feathers? Or bust out your old point-and-shoot cameras for the kids to take photos of clouds. Talk about the different formations they see. The possibilities are endless.
Experiment at home
Over school holidays, don’t just give in to the temptation to give kids free rein over screens. Encourage them to get their hands dirty with safe at-home science experiments. We can’t tell you how much we love these kits from Atom & the Dot which provide you with everything you need to learn about a particular theme. Pinterest is also a great source of fun at-home experiments.
If you’ve got older kids, why not introduce them to the weird and wonderful world of MythBusters (yes, we know that technically reverts back to screen time … but it’s educational!) and try some of their tested Do Try This At Home experiments?
Science is all around us. From our human bodies – ‘How do our feet support our weight and physical activities like jumping without breaking?’ – to the plants growing in the garden, there’s so much to marvel at.
Ultimately, one of the best science teachers your kids could have is you. You don’t have to hold a PhD in microbiology or astronomy to encourage your kids to be curious. Don’t know the answer to a question? Commit to finding out together – that’s what the Internet is for. Thank you, science!
By Faye Song
Faye Song is a former journalist now working in marketing and communications. She lives in Darwin, where she enjoys the best of Southeast Asia (the food and night markets) and Australia (the workday that ends punctually at 4.21pm), with her husband, toddler and small dog.