Q: [School-Age] What are some effective ways to get children, especially girls, interested in STEM fields? And how can I, as a parent, cultivate this interest?
A: The best way to get children involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is to provide hands-on, engaging experiences where they can learn these skills by creating and building. Robotics is a great example. Building and programming a robot is a fun and effective way to learn design-thinking, coding and engineering. Robotics projects are also appropriate for individuals, or groups, so if your daughter has friends over during the summer, they could work on a project together. Also, more schools are starting to offer robotics or coding clubs, which are good ways to introduce students to STEM in a fun atmosphere that encourages communication and teamwork.
During the summer months look for STEM camps to increase the amount of time children spend engaged in hands-on STEM projects. The more exposure students have to these concepts, the more likely they are to pursue those interests after the program is over. Parents can also help their child find a STEM mentor, such as a teacher, club coach, camp staff member, or a trusted adult in the community who is employed in a STEM field and can help children understand how these skills connect to real-world careers.
There are some additional things to keep in mind for girls. I have two daughters myself and expanding opportunities for girls in STEM is one of my passions. If your daughter can connect with a female STEM mentor or find a camp or afterschool program in which a large percentage of students and mentors/coaches are female, this may help develop her interest. STEM skills are not only in demand, they are fun to learn. Exposing children early to these opportunities can help them develop these skills and perhaps lead to a future STEM career.
Evan Boorman is CEO and founder of CodeREV Kids (www.coderevkids.com/tech-camps), which provides tech camps for students and Creator Bots curriculum for schools.