If you were to ask a group if they were good at reading, there would be very few who would admit to not reading well. In contrast, if you were to ask about their comfort level with math and science, many would say that they harbor a strong dislike for these subjects. Fewer people value or feel competent in math and science and it is socially acceptable. It’s a sad fact, and this attitude often surfaces first in school!
Many of us remember the anxiety of timed tests, conceptual learning through books and worksheets and the droning lectures we often received in math and science classes. Adults can unintentionally undermine children’s math and science ability and attitudes when they say things like, “Math is hard,” or, “I didn’t like science, either, when I was in school.” Although you can’t make a child enjoy science and math, you can encourage them to try new things and appreciate the value in everyday experiences.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is an exciting new initiative in the afterschool field. Many afterschool teachers are nervous about tackling science and math activities because they feel that they have to have all the answers. But STEM is not focused on concepts and vocabulary! STEM is about informal learning building on children’s interests. It’s about the experience and being able to answer the question: What would happen if? Or, what do you think? It’s hands on and minds on, where children can openly manipulate materials without a recipe or demonstration by an adult. By providing these informal experiences, it’s hoped that children will gain a greater understanding and make connections when they hear concepts taught during the school day. Best of all, it’s fun!
How can we begin to foster this sense of wonder in school age children? 4C for Children offers many STEM workshops, which you can view and register for on our online catalog (under “School-age”). Time Warner Cable has also invested in Connect a Million Minds, a STEM project where teachers and parents can browse countless opportunities for learning. It’s speculated that 80 percent of jobs will require math and science skills in the next decade. In order to prepare children with 21st century skills, it is our job to provide STEM learning that is exciting, creative and fun.