Why is STEM/STEAM getting all this attention? What benefits does it give your homeschooled child(ren)?
You already have so much to include in your curriculum. How and why should you include one more thing? STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but it is also a way of teaching that brings together the four subjects and asks children to apply their knowledge of these subjects to real-world problems. STEAM simply adds the arts as well, fostering more creativity and involving some arts-focused tasks among projects centering on the other four subjects. Both STEM and STEAM activities incorporate the use of many 21st-century skills that are necessary for college and career.
What are the Benefits of Including STEM or STEAM in Your Homeschool?
You may think that STEM/STEAM seems interesting, but the number of potential benefits to your children may surprise you! Here are just some of the improvements STEM and STEAM activities have over separate school subjects taught in isolation:
- Real-Life Connections: Children often miss the reasons for learning what they learn in school. They memorize the material in a certain subject in order to pass a test or to please the teacher or parents (with good grades), but the motivation and application is missing. STEM and STEAM projects connect academic material to the real world and give a purpose for learning.
- Preparation for Jobs: The knowledge and skills that are built through STEM and STEAM projects help to prepare children for the kinds of high-paying jobs that are available in global markets. Experience with STEM/STEAM projects provides more competence and confidence in the subject areas that are likely to benefit employment after school.
- Growth of Executive Function Skills: In addition to increasing skills and knowledge in the important subject areas, STEM and STEAM projects also strengthen vital executive function skills and strategies. In particular, the STEM/STEAM project completion process builds your children’s abilities to set goals, plan and prioritize, organize ideas and materials, manage time and progress, think flexibly and adapt, and reflect on their own successes and challenges.
- Opportunities for Higher Level Thinking: STEM and STEAM projects do not have an easy answer (at the back of the book). Children need to move beyond memorizing facts and repeating back information. They are asked to logically analyze, research, evaluate, and problem solve by following the scientific method and therefore building critical thinking skills.
- Encouragement of Creativity: While creativity may be limited in isolated subject areas, STEM and STEAM projects require creativity as children brainstorm ideas, judge their own ideas, and change their ideas if necessary. Children are asked to solve problems that are not easily solved, so they must wrestle with the issues and their situations (e.g., limits on resources, community perspectives) and then think outside-the-box to find solutions.
- Development of Collaboration and Leadership Abilities: Whenever possible, STEM and STEAM projects are group activities, either face-to-face or online. Children learn, when supported appropriately, to communicate, work together, and even take on leadership roles within the group. These are skills that are very highly valued in the workplace.
All in all, STEM and STEAM projects simulate the real world better than academics taught through separate subjects. The skills that are built through such projects are important for life after high school, whether that means college or career. Most importantly, STEM and STEAM tasks build on children’s natural curiosity and are often more motivating and engaging. Children get excited about their chances to solve problems, be creative, and impress grownups with their ideas!
How Can You Include STEM or STEAM in Your Homeschool?
Now that you are convinced that STEM or STEAM belongs in your homeschool, you may not be sure how to get started. Here are some ideas for gradually building STEM or STEAM into your homeschool:
- Add Single Activities: Start by adding some STEM or STEAM activities within your subject areas. There are many online resources where you can find simple STEM or STEAM projects or challenge prompts that you can assign as independent or collaborative work for your children. Try these challenge cards to start:
- Design Your Own Makerspace: Get some materials together and create your own makerspace for use regularly or when your children finish with other activities. Get your free Makerspace Start List to help you!
- Find Makerspace or STEM/STEAM Events: Check with schools and museums or reach out to local homeschoolers or co-ops. You can also find online events like our A2Z Online Homeschool STEM Fair where your children can design projects and win prizes.
- Look for STEM/STEAM Clubs: Ask around at your local schools and other community organizations like gyms, libraries, or youth centers or look online to see if there are any STEM/STEAM clubs or programs that meet regularly.
- Use a STEM/STEAM Curriculum: If you want to bring STEM/STEAM into your regular homeschool schedule, do some research to find whole year, grade-level appropriate STEM or STEAM curriculums or STEM resources for homeschool that you can purchase.
STEM and STEAM activities can be a welcome change to the typical school day for your children. Ask them about issues they would like to solve. Invite them to share their designs and creative ideas. Build in STEM or STEAM activities and help them become future innovators and inventors, leaders and collaborators, or maybe just better learners and thinkers!
Know of any great STEM or STEAM curriculums or resources for homeschool? Share them in the comments below….