6 Unique Ways to Include STEM in Your Homeschool Routine
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM) education is frequently in the news—for good reason. STEM provides students with a foundation in critical thinking and problem-solving. This can be invaluable, even if a student does not intend to pursue a STEM career.
Some homeschooling families, however, may be intimidated by the thought of teaching STEM. Others are not intimidated by STEM subjects, but are instead seeking different ways to incorporate STEM into their homeschool curriculum. Whether you come from a STEM background or not, here are six unique ways to include STEM in your homeschool routine:
Consider reading STEM-themed books with your homeschool student. You can do this as part of a book club, as an independent reading assignment, or as a bedtime story. STEM-themed books can be found at all reading levels, and they do not have to be non-fiction to generate discussion and exploration.
- Hands-on museum experiences
If you are lucky enough to have a hands-on children’s or science museum in your area, you may wish to purchase a membership and become a regular. These types of organizations have exhibits that students and their parents can explore on a monthly or even weekly basis. In addition, they typically have special offerings, such as classes or demonstrations, robotics clubs, and summer camps.
- Lab activities and STEM kits
If you are not yet comfortable with STEM, searching for pre-written lab activities or purchasing pre-made kits that contain all the necessary materials can help you to ease into more complex endeavors.
- Open-ended play
A great way to encourage STEM thought processes (and to let students see how engaging STEM can be) is to allow your student to simply play. Encourage him or her to build forts and LEGO creations, to mix ingredients in the kitchen, to take apart the toaster, to create objects from piles of “junk,” and to otherwise let the creative juices flow. Create a “makerspace” in your home (or find one at a nearby university or museum), and then schedule in “tinkering” time. If he or she has ideas of what to build, let him or her go for it. If he or she has trouble getting started, assign a task to solve. (An Internet search for makerspace tasks or task cards can give you some ideas.)
- Real-life inquiry
Nothing brings STEM to life like trying to solve a real-world problem. A quick Internet search can find a number of real-world problems for students to solve. There are also organizations and competitions that bring together students from all over to literally “solve the world’s problems.” Engaging in a STEM education does not mean that you give your child all the answers; it means that your child will be able to brainstorm and experiment with different potential solutions. If one idea does not work, take what you have learned, tweak the idea, and try again. Project-based learning is another way to find meaningful problems for your child to explore. He or she can also look around and come up with their own problems to solve!
- Career exploration
Exploring careers can be a great way to see the usefulness of STEM skills. Shadowing someone in a STEM career, doing volunteer work, or participating in an internship are all ways to incorporate STEM into your regular homeschooling routine. Since homeschool students are not restricted during traditional school hours, they are able to explore more careers in a realistic setting.
STEM has become a buzzword in today’s educational circles because of the need for STEM skills in today’s world. Whether you are STEM-skeptical or just looking for better ways to help your child explore STEM topics, there are a number of unique methods for including STEM in your homeschool routine.
Dana Elmore is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.