Why is STEM Important In Your Homeschool?
Learn why adding STEM or STEAM is important and discover how to incorporate STEM/STEAM resources for your homeschool!
“STEM” is a popular buzzword in education, but what is it, really? You may know what STEM stands for—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—but do you also know that STEM refers to the way these subjects are taught? A STEM curriculum integrates the four subjects and applies them to real-world issues, building on children’s natural curiosity. When children learn STEM, they use 21st-century skills to inquire and think about issues and creatively solve problems using evidence, collaboration, and critical thinking. Add an ‘A,’ and you have STEAM, which pulls in the arts as well, with an emphasis on creativity.
Why Include STEM in Your Homeschool
STEM calls into question our regular ideas about school subjects—for example, ELA, science, social studies, and math—as being separate. It moves what we typically do in school toward more realistic experiences for students. The benefits when you bring STEM into your homeschool are many:
VIDEO: Why STEM?
- Makes Relevant Connections to a Larger Community: Do your children frequently ask, “Why do we have to know this?” STEM and STEAM projects connect learning to issues in the community and make learning meaningful.
- Increases Knowledge and Skills in Key Areas: STEM subjects are areas of growth in global job markets, so the push for STEM in school has been increasing. Job projections for STEM-related jobs are higher, overall, than for non-STEM-related jobs. You want your children to be ready for the types of jobs that are out there, right?
- Promotes Planning: Once children have an idea to meet a challenge, they must plan out their projects. You can support their development of goal setting, planning and prioritizing, organization, and time management (as well as self-reflection) through the process of project completion.
- Strengthens Critical Thinking Skills: STEM and STEAM projects push your children beyond rote memorization and procedural skills. Children are asked to analyze and evaluate issues and then problem solve logically through the use of the scientific method.
- Encourages Creativity: Problem-solving using STEM and STEAM encourages your children to be creative. Who knows, you may be helping to create the next great inventor or innovator!
- Improves Cognitive Flexibility: Children need to learn to adapt when their first idea does not work. This is called “cognitive flexibility,” and it is an important executive function skill for all aspects of life. Through STEM and STEAM projects, your children can try one solution and practice adapting to a Plan B if that first plan is not successful.
- Enhances Collaboration Skills: Children often have difficulty working with others, especially in the younger grades. STEM and STEAM activities are perfectly suited to develop collaboration with other children—either face-to-face or online. Be careful to support your children in how to be good collaborators!
- Builds Leadership Abilities: Children believe in many myths about leadership, and they look to leaders they know as examples. Collaborative STEM and STEAM projects create opportunities to discuss what leadership really is and to practice skills in being leaders. As with collaboration, your children will need a lot of support—especially in the beginning—to learn the role of leader.
- Simulates the Real-World: Overall, STEM and STEAM activities better simulate real-world work experiences than many school subjects when they are taught in isolation. Many companies and organizations function through the use of committees and working groups and use document sharing and other collaborative tools. Taking advantage of STEM and STEAM projects can better prepare your children for the world after school.
Best of all, STEM and STEAM projects are often more engaging for your children because of their hands-on nature. When children are interested and having fun, they can learn without even knowing that they are learning!
What is STEAM?
VIDEO: What is STEAM?
Some argue that STEM is missing something by limiting itself to only four subjects and suggest that the Arts may be the missing link. STEAM, they argue, encourages more creativity and thinking “outside of the box.” STEAM also allows STEM to be applied to arts areas, maximizing children’s natural wonder and innovation. To clarify, see Education Closet’s example of how a catapult challenge would look as a STEM experience versus a STEAM experience. The real question to consider is, Why wouldn’t you include the Arts in at least some of the activities when you teach in a STEM way?
How to Include STEM/STEAM in Your Homeschool
If you are like many homeschool parents, you may want to integrate STEM or STEAM into your homeschool, but you are not sure how. Here are some suggestions:
- Use a STEM/STEAM Curriculum: There are many STEM and STEAM curriculums available. Make sure lessons are aligned to at least two standards from different subject areas and that the focus is on process (“the journey”) rather than on the end product. Remember that reading and writing can be integrated with the whole process, and social studies connections can be made as your child investigates issues within local, state, national, and global communities.
- Join STEM/STEAM Programs or Clubs: Check your local community and online for STEM/STEAM programs or regularly-meeting clubs at museums or other organizations.
- Create a Makerspace: If there aren’t any already established makerspaces available near you, you can make your own. Get your free Makerspace Start Kit here!
- Participate in STEM/STEAM Events: Look for STEM or STEAM events or makerspaces at local schools and museums. Watch for local high school science and robotics fairs, too. Check with local homeschoolers or join a co-op that includes STEM in its programming.
Don’t forget to check online! Events like the A2Z Online Homeschool STEM Fair provide homeschool students with the opportunity to design and create projects for a chance to win prizes.
Sample STEM/STEAM Challenge Prompts
A STEM or STEAM project can start with simple ideas based on the needs of today’s world. Here are some sample STEM and STEAM challenge prompts that you can use or adapt for your homeschool:
- Design a bridge using __________ that can hold the greatest weight possible.
- Design something that does __________ using only what is on the desk.
- Design an energy-saving device with this function: __________.
- Design a way to address the need for renewable energy.
- Design an agricultural practice or tool that can improve farming.
- Design a web-based app to help __________.
- Design a piece of artwork using the principles of lasers and light.
- Design a video to increase awareness about __________ using graphic design, photoshop, and video production software.
- Design a robot that can do this: __________.
- Design a structure that can best withstand __________ using CAD and 3D modeling/printing.
Do you know of other great challenge prompts? Just add them in the comments below….