How You Can Help Your Child Succeed In STEM Subjects

Experience STEM activities together. Hero Images via Getty Images

Even if you weren't great at science and math in school, even if you don't know how to write a single line of programming code, you can still provide great support for your child to succeed in STEM subjects.  

Here are Five Ways You Can Make A Difference: 

Make School Attendance A Priority

STEM subjects are now taught with a more hands-on real life approach.  If your child misses school, they are missing out on valuable activities that will be difficult to make up.

 They won't be able to get the same experience from reading out of a book.  

Watch Your Own Attitude About STEM subjects

Children pick up their attitudes and many of their opinions from watching their parents.  If you think math is hard or that science is boring or too difficult, your child can pick up on that and adopt that same attitude.  This doesn't mean you need to lie and say you love these topics.  Instead, you can be honest and say that you  never learned enough to feel comfortable in that subject.  A mother could even add on that girls rarely took technology based classes when she was in school, and how glad she is that her daughter has more opportunities available to her today.

Encourage Questioning, Curiosity and Experimentation  

The natural curiosity of young children is one of their greatest strengths to becoming successful in STEM subjects.  Rather than telling your child that all of their questionings is getting on your nerves (which may very well be the case) praise them for their curiosity and help guide them finding the answer.

 If you don't know the answer to a question, don't be afraid to say you don't know.  Just follow this up quickly with encouragement for your child to find the answer.  You can suggest ways they may find out an answer to their question.

If your child asks you what would happen if they did a particular thing, let them found out as long as it is safe.


Have Quality STEM Media In Your Home

Just like reading, having great books on STEM at home can encourage your child to pick up a book and learn more.  With STEM, you are not just limited to books and print media.  There are many great TV shows and films about STEM.  PBS alone has several different shows  - like Nova, nature and Sid the Science Kid, science for different age groups.  Other channels also offer shows and films that explain science in an interesting way.

You will also find that a lot of movies and tv shows include STEM-related topics.  Watching a crime mystery provides an opportunity to talk about whether or not the forensics used in the show are realistic.  Computer hacking is a common plot twist, and can lead to a talk on how computers, data storage, and cyber security really works. 

Advocate For More STEM In Schools if Necessary

Despite the popularity of STEM right now, there are still schools that face significant barriers to improving their STEM instruction.  If you are not seeing the quality of STEM education that you would like to see at your child's school, it would help to speak up.

 Start by talking with your child's teacher to find out what they are doing to provide quality STEM education, then ask what the school and your local school district have to offer.  If you have any concerns, ask your child's teacher directly what support they are being offered stay current in STEM teaching.  Find out where your state or district is in relation to the new Next Generation  Science Standards.  Adopting and borrowing heavily from these standards shows that your child's school is working to provide a quality STEM education.  

If your child's teacher gives answers that show that they are not being provided training opportunities or support for new methods, look for ways to change that.  Try to find out where the barrier is, and then write letters or speak to that level.  If the local school district is hesitant to put funding towards STEM or update age-old standards, go and speak at a school board meeting.  If state legislators are slow to make changes, write letters to your elected officials.  If the issue seems to be at the school level, expressing strong support for STEM education to the principal can help lead to change.

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