Nurturing an Interest in STEM

Children are natural-born engineers. From their ability to imagine and create to their love of discovery, they are hardwired to explore all facets of life.

With this realization comes the opportunity for parents to nurture those inherent tendencies as a way to bridge their child’s interest in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—subjects and learning that will lead to an array of career paths in the future.

Raleigh-based Brentwood Magnet Elementary School of Engineering was designed with that learning focus in mind and has since garnered national recognition for the specialized engineering program it provides. The first elementary school in the state to be named an NC Model STEM School, Brentwood provides students with access to a 3D-printer, iPad minis, and a variety of engineering materials to utilize in their core curriculum.

“Brentwood students engage in solving real-world problems across all content areas using the Engineering Design Process: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve,” said school Principal Robert Epler. “These hands-on activities and exploration occur across all school settings, including a Makerspace where the grade level teacher and a STEM teacher team teach. Our engineering theme opens the door for students to demonstrate and build upon their creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical-thinking skills.”

Do you want to guide your eager engineer’s interest in STEM sooner rather than later? There are many ways you can introduce this learning approach in your own home.  

Answer questions with questions:

Speaking with your child may seem like a game of 21 questions. She asks and you answer, and so on and so on. Consider turning the tables by answering her question with a question. Ignite an opportunity for her to tell you what she thinks rather than hearing what you think.

Choose exploration over instruction

Give your son a project and let him make his own plan to complete it. By limiting the instruction you provide, you’ll be empowering him/her ability to explore his way to a solution through imagination, creation, and problem-solving techniques.

Define failure differently

While failure may be inevitable, your daughter’s perception of its meaning will play a significant role in her willingness to continue with a task or new learning. Encourage her to celebrate her failures as a part of the tinkering process. Ask her to consider her missteps and redirect her focus towards completing the task in a different way.  

Tag team a problem

Collaboration is a key component of a successful career—impress that upon your son now by working side-by-side to complete an activity. Make sure to let him lead the project, but do ask questions and engage him in a discussion about how you may work together to find a solution.

Create real world awareness

Show your daughter the many ways in which math and science are relevant to her daily life. Ask her to count out coins and dollars to pay for your weekly grocery tab. Go outside and fly a kite to learn about wind direction and speed. Be stargazers and seek out different constellations and planet positions. Use recycled materials to build a bridge similar to one she’s seen in your hometown.

“A curious child is one that is piecing together the world around them to gain information and grow their knowledge of how things came to be, how they work, how they may be improved,” said Brentwood Magnet Coordinator and STEM Teacher Emily Hardee. “At our school, we often task our students with exploration rather than step-by-step instruction to engage and empower their inner engineer. We give them the room to imagine, innovate, and collaborate their way to an answer. We are grooming them to be 21st-century thinkers. ”

Visit Wake County Public School System’s Magnet Programs website at www.wcpss.net/magnet for more information about all of its magnet schools and themes and enrollment opportunities.

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