For years, the different branches of STEM have been present in school curriculums in some capacity. Lately, though, those four interconnected subjects have been grouped together to represent a set of skills that play off each other and are seen as extremely useful in today’s job market—and the modern world.
Children usually learn about most STEM-related subjects as academic concepts, but those concepts can also be demonstrated and given practical use through a number of projects or activities. These showcase lessons and touch on learning styles that traditional academics may neglect or completely ignore. If given the time and energy necessary to be successful, STEM projects can lead kids to understand real-world, practical applications or discover innovations.
What Is STEM?
STEM is an acronym made from the first letters of science, technology, engineering and math. However, STEM is so much more than an etymological analysis of the word. It’s a sea change in the educational priorities of modern scholarly institutions.
It’s a redistribution of values that places greater emphasis on the real-world implications these subjects have on modern society. It’s an effort to better prepare young people for the world they’re growing to inherit.
STEM is a popular approach to education that emphasizes the importance of the four main academic disciplines working together. This approach is believed to help students better understand each subject and be more successful overall.
Why STEM Development is Important for Kids
Right now, most industries, disciplines and sources of information are changing, innovating and evolving at high rates. It’s believed that children should be introduced to STEM activities as soon as possible in an effort to help become adaptable, innovative and fluent in technology.
It’s also important for children to form a firm understanding of the hows and whys of STEM disciplines and the different technologies that stem from each. That way, as this tech grows over the years, kids can grow with it and expand upon the solid foundation laid during STEM activities conducted when they were younger.
Technology’s innovations and improvements start from a base, and if a young person understands that base, they’ll probably have an easier time utilizing prior knowledge as a relatable bridge from which to learn the intricacies of new technologies. Since STEM-based careers account for a large portion of today’s—and, most likely, the future’s—job market, keeping that interest going and encouraging kids to stay active in STEM learning will help future-proof their skill set.
Young children seem to show an almost insatiable interest in STEM, but that vigor may fade as they grow older and priorities change as their lives become more complicated. However, skills derived from STEM knowledge and activities only seem to be gaining in importance, thanks to our societal direction. Keeping kids involved in STEM will help them develop the important skills if they ever want to explore that world again.
Those skills can extend beyond STEM’s four stated categories, too. Activities that teach STEM also tend to include secondary lessons on digital literacy and good digital citizenship, written and verbal communications, problem solving, learning to think creatively, and learning to think critically.
7 STEM Activities for Kids
Cloud in a Jar
This activity can be frugal fun for boys and girls—all that’s needed is water and hairspray to demonstrate the formation of a cloud. It can be presented in an easy-to-comprehend way that makes it friendly for young learners, or enhanced with big-picture concepts like the water cycle to engage older children. Performing this activity outside on a cloudy day helps demonstrate the process in real-time. This gives kids another way to learn about the weather and water cycle.
Using Code to Crack a LEGO Maze
Your learner may be familiar with LEGO, but they probably haven’t used those tiny plastic blocks like this.
This STEM challenge asks kids to act as a user, coding a LEGO minifig’s way through a block maze. The intensity of this activity can be dialed down for younger children or enhanced for elementary and middle school students to tackle and enjoy.
Crafting a Simple Machine
This activity is for those creative STEM learners whose ideal learning situation involves fun, hands-on projects. Building this hand crank winch will help them understand the concept of building awesomely impressive things.
You’ll probably need to help during the construction phase, but as far as safety goes, the tools aren’t dangerous. They are also affordable and easy to find.
Test Your Water
This is something that should be done anyway, so including your learner in the at-home water testing process will help them learn how to conduct basic experiments and teach them about the different ways water can be altered. Water tests can be purchased online and some health centers offer free water testing.
As a bonus activity, test the water from creeks, ponds and more. Then compare and contrast your findings with the water you drink, shower and cook with.
What about your water makes it safe to consume? Is it really that dangerous to drink from the creek?
Invent a New Plant or Animal
Learn about adaptation in nature with an extremely creative, flexible activity: ask a learner to create an entirely new species of plant or animal!
Students can choose their organism’s habitat or you can set the parameters to see which solutions are posed for the problems this imaginary being must overcome. After students choose a plant or animal, ask them to write a story about a day in its life. Describe adaptations and traits that help the creature find food and shelter. You may also require a drawing of the creature.
Create and Test Soap Bubbles
In this activity, you and your learner can create or attempt to enhance different solutions for making bubbles. You can compare and contrast the ways each substance made positive or negative impacts on bubble, while discussing physics concepts like surface tension.
In addition to the academic benefits of this project, young participants can gain the confidence to experiment and attempt their ideas in a relatively friendly setting, with clear examples of cause and effect that create results in good or bad bubbles.
Create Your Own Slime
It’s a product your kids probably see in stores, but making their own slime is also an easy STEM activity. It’s a classic project that still holds up today and is relatively cheap to buy materials for. Just be careful, since the slime isn’t edible. So keep an eye on younger learners as they explore the wide world of chemistry.
How to Introduce STEM to Your Child
If you’re unsure about how to start a young person down the path of learning about STEM, the aforementioned activities can be a great place to begin. Activities meant for STEM learning are kind of like science experiments, but they include other aspects that help touch on all four subjects, creating a well-rounded educational experience. They’re also built to instill and promote a love for curiosity, exploration and discovery that sticks with the learner after school, helping children grow into adaptable lifelong learners.
Most STEM activities can be completed at home or at school, making them great for an at-home learner, an after-school activity or an entire classroom’s worth of world explorers. Activities in STEM can be a lot of fun. They can involve doing math, science projects, and learning engineering skills. Children can also learn about how technology works in the real world.
If a student isn’t keen on activities or wants additional materials, online STEM courses can act as a second option or a great source of supplemental information.
Whether you choose activities or online courses to introduce your learner or learners to STEM is dependent on the specific young person in question—the unifying rule is that this should be done as soon as possible in a child’s academic career. The earlier their introduction, the sooner they’ll begin developing a foundation upon which they’ll expand their knowledge.
Explore Online STEM Courses for Kids
No matter the age, getting a learner involved in STEM is a worthwhile endeavor—and there’s a vast selection of targeted and tailored materials available to help. Whether you’re an educator at any level of the academic system—from Pre-K and Kindergarten to high school—or a caregiver looking for ways to feed a young person’s curiosity, STEM learning can become a part of the learning process.
The lessons learned during enriching STEM activities or instruction can prepare a young person for a future of taking in information, adapting to it and continuing to grow with the ever-evolving world around them. If you’re looking for more information on STEM learning, Juni Learning has a catalog of online STEM-centric courses that help kids learn and grow while also having fun.
This course uses Minecraft, one of the most successful examples of turning video games into STEM games for kids, to teach the applicable skill of coding. If you’re looking for other STEM challenges or STEM activities for kids, be sure to search the site for Juni Learning’s other offerings focused on STEM learning!