5 ways to get started with STEM education


STEM education… we hear those words a lot nowadays. We know that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) will play a crucial role in shaping our futures. STEM education is a cross-discipline approach to teaching these subjects with problem solving at its heart. Great STEM education works through activities with real-world applications, helping children to understand how their learning is relevant and how they could use it in the future.

But how do we get started with it?

Here are 5 quick, easy to implement ways to help get you started.

Remember…

  • You don’t need to be an expert in STEM to deliver great STEM education.
  • You don’t need lots of spare time in your day to fit STEM education in.
  • You don’t need lots of expensive resources.

Start with these small steps and you’ll steadily see the STEM culture in your classroom grow!


 

STEM activities with a practical, real-world purpose are a really fun way to engage children with STEM education. Not only that but they’re a great way to get children working collaboratively – perfect for the start of the academic year!

I truly believe that it’s possible to slot high-quality STEM education into those spare 15 minutes in your day.

Take my 15-Minute STEM books. Each book contains 40 activities, each starting with a curiosity question to spark interest and excitement. They give you activity instructions and an explanation of the learning. There’s even suggestions for further investigation if you wish to take the activity further.

Or check out the free STEM activities on our website here. New activities are added regularly!


How to get started with simple STEM activities:


Our year is packed full of rich opportunities to set STEM education within a real-world context. From seasonal celebrations such as Halloween or Easter to special days/weeks such as National Space Week or Ada Lovelace Day.

It’s always good to be aware of whats coming up each month so you can plan opportunities to link your STEM learning to it. For example, Autumn is the perfect time to try out our free Frozen Fireworks activity.

We’ve put together a handy guide for each season so you can plan ahead. You can find these in our blog section. We also recommend you make links to local events going on in your community, as well as to global events going on in the news.


How to get started with celebrating STEM events:


When you think STEM education, what kind of equipment comes to mind? Robotics, Raspberry Pi, 3D printers… expensive stuff!

STEM education doesn’t need to break the budget. It can also be all of these things: cardboard boxes, lolly sticks, yoghurt pots and elastic bands. The kinds of things we have lying around our homes and classrooms.

Instead of throwing these things out, save them up, safe in the knowledge they will soon come in handy for a STEM activity! Over time you could build up a class or school ‘Makerspace’, an area to store creative materials. For now a box in your cupboard will do.


How to get started with saving STEM resources:


It’s easy to underestimate the influence of a book on a child’s understanding of the world. Stories help to shape children’s perspectives and form their understanding of cultural and gender roles. What better way to teach the importance of STEM skills than through a book?

There are lots of fantastic fiction books around that your class will love. See below for some of our suggestions, including seasonal STEM books and maths picture books.

STEM books are also a great way to address diversity and challenge stereotypes in STEM. They help to introduce positive role models and to raise the profile of influential people in STEM.


How to get started with reading STEM books:


What better way to bring STEM education to life than with STEM visitors. When we invite in people working in STEM careers we not only help to educate children a bit more about the world of work but also to introduce them to a range of positive role models.

Why not start with the school playground? Reach out to the parents in your school community to see if they would be willing to speak to the class about their jobs. You may well be surprised by the offers you get!

Additionally try approaching local companies and businesses. You will find they are often only too happy to help out and some really productive relationships can come about as a result of this.


How to get started with speaking to STEM visitors:


10 ways to nurture children’s STEM skills this summer

10 ways to nurture children's STEM skills this summer

Here we are, just days into the holidays, a long summer with the family stretching out in front of you. One thought is beginning to weigh heavily on your mind: ‘How on earth am I going to keep my children entertained?’ It’s all very well leaving them to their own devices but it doesn’t take long before the novelty of lie-ins, endless screen time and lack of routine wears off and you hear them utter those dreaded words: ‘I’m bored!’

Keeping children amused in the holidays is a daunting prospect for many parents and keeping the cost down even more so. However, the summer holidays are a golden opportunity for children to explore, learn new skills and put their learning into a real-world context. What’s more, nurturing your child’s natural curiosity and creativity is an excellent way to broaden their horizons and shape their future aspirations.

Recent research by the charity Education and Employers shows that children form their perceptions about careers and jobs at an early age, developing their future ambitions from as young as seven. However, making a connection between primary school lessons and the jobs they might one day pursue is not easy. This research also shows that there is a major disconnect between the careers that primary-aged children are most interested in and those that the economy needs.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related industries are some of the fastest growing and demand for skilled workers is only set to grow. From robotics to caring for our environment, space exploration to the digital revolution, these disciplines have an impact that can already be seen in every aspect of our lives. Preparation for STEM careers is not just a matter of imparting hard knowledge, but nurturing ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork and problem solving. Fortunately, STEM activities and soft skills go hand-in-hand.

Here are ten quick, easy ways to nurture a love of STEM this summer. They won’t break the bank, and might just prevent those dreaded words… ‘I’m bored!’

Go on a nature walk

Nature walks are a fantastic way to unwind and appreciate the natural world outside. Spend time searching for minibeasts like beetles and ants in different habitats, using a magnifying glass to take a closer look. Alternatively, look for naturally occurring patterns, from the symmetry of a butterfly’s wings to the spirals in a snail’s shell or the tessellation in tree bark. The natural world is full of patterns!

blow some bubbles

Have a go at creating a 2D shape bubble wand by cutting straws into quarters and bending pipe cleaners through them to join the straw segments together. For more of a challenge, create a 3D shape bubble wand. Cubes and pyramid shapes work particularly well for this. Then dip your bubble wand into soapy water, take a good look at your bubble and then blow it away!

Enjoy a local adventure

Take a trip to a local museum or zoo. This is a great way to not only bring learning to life but also to meet experts in different fields. What’s more, many museums run free events and workshops for children throughout the summer holidays. Look up locations near you for more information.

Get puzzling

Play puzzles and games. Activities such as Sudoku and chess are great for developing logical thinking, an important skill in STEM subjects. Construction toys such as Lego help to develop spatial awareness. Anything involving dice is great for developing mathematical skills.

Make a stick raft

Challenge your child to create a raft out of natural materials. Sticks, joined together with twine are perfect for this and a leaf can make an excellent flag. Then test your raft in a bowl of water or stream to see if it floats!

Appreciate the night sky

Try your hand at a spot of stargazing on a clear evening. There are lots of free apps available for download to help you navigate the sky above you. For a closer look at the stars, locate a free star gazing event near you. The ‘Go Stargazing’ website is a great place to start.

Create a junk modelling masterpiece

It’s amazing what can be constructed out of the contents of a recycle bin. Cardboard tubes such as those found on kitchen and toilet roll can be taped to a wall to create a marble run. Vary the angles of the tubes to create different speeds of travel. Another idea could be to create a moving vehicle or boat out of junk modelling materials.

Fix something

Find out how things work. For example, try taking a simple mechanical toy apart and reassembling it again (steering clear of electrical items). As you do so, discuss the function of all the different parts.

Construct a newspaper tower

Challenge your child to create the tallest freestanding tower that they can out of newspaper. Sticky tape works best for joining the structure together. You could make this competitive by setting a timer to see who can build the tallest tower in the allotted time: you or your child?

Set off on a scavenger hunt

Give your child a list of ten things to find in the natural world. Ideas that work well are a list of colours, textures, shapes or smells. They can tick items off the list once found or even take a photo of them as evidence.

 

For each of these activities, you can discuss their relations to different sorts of jobs. For example, a newspaper tower could be connected to the role of a civil engineer or architect; the nature walk to the job of a biologist or forester; the junk modelling to the job of a design engineer. Plan these activities into your summer holidays and perhaps you might just plant some seeds for future ambitions in the process.

For more STEM activities and ideas, order your copy of 15-Minute STEM here.

15-minute STEM