STEM education is a term well-known in academic circles, and among parents who explore options for their children. But what is STEM all about? The expanded form is simple enough, Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics, but the idea behind STEM is much more than that. STEM develops a set of thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative, and creative skills that anybody can use in all areas of their lives.
So, re looking at the definitions of S-T-E-M:
- Science: The study of the natural world
- Technology: Technology broadly refers to any product made to meet a want or need. A chair is technology; so is a pencil. In this context, any product children create to solve a problem can be regarded as technology
- Engineering: The design process used to solve problems
- Math: The language of numbers, shapes, and quantities
With these definitions in context, it is clearer that all these elements go in hand-in-hand. Any person facing a real-life problem needs to have a good idea of their environment, have the ability to use the resources available to address issues through a practised design process and have the ability to accurately measure various quantities related to the issue at hand.
So, STEM-thinking makes children better and more capable people who contribute significantly to society. But how do we introduce such a complex topic into the carefree world of little ones? It’s really simple. Give children real life problems that exercise different skills. This is not the same as telling a child “Ramu has ten mangoes, and his father gave him ten more.” Children naturally get more interested in the mangoes. The idea is to present them with problems that engage their curiosity and encourages them to persist till they get a solution. This attitude gets ingrained in them early in life, and helps them face life head-on.
So, at a young age, what kind of challenges can you give a child that would catch their fancy and also help them exercise their STEM-learning? The answer is to design the challenges as play. It is with this idea that the market has a separate niche of “STEM-learning toys”, but these toys focus on strengthening each element of STEM in order to make a career path in a STEM profession. However, a good STEM-learning toy develops the core potential of every child so they can competently choose any path in their life with logic and genuine insight.
At the end of the day, the real objective behind STEM-learning is to help children grow up to be confident and highly capable unique individuals who think out of the box in whatever venture they choose. Imagine a society of individuals who are fully responsible for every decision they take in their lives. This could be the future if we accept the truth behind this, and help put our children on the path to such a dream.