With summer in full swing, many parents are trying to find the balance between relaxation, activities, and learning. It can also be quite tempting for kids to sit dormant all day, watch television and play video games. But did you know that students’ achievement scores decline over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning? That means students who do not continue learning during the summer season do not score as well on standardized tests than those that do. The phenomenon is referred to as summer learning loss, and it means that teachers often to spend a whole month reteaching old material when kids come back to school in the fall.
When it comes to summer learning loss, what parents may not know is that there are real benefits to engaging children in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) topics when school is out. The STEM world is growing now more than ever. From the development of digital advancements to discovering cures for infectious diseases, jobs and careers of the future will rely on computer and technology-related skills in an ever-increasing way, making STEM essential to our everyday lives and vital for the advancement of our children’s education.
Some benefits of exposing your kids in STEM activities during the summer include:
- Improving problem-solving skills, creativity, mental alertness and the importance of collaboration allow our youth to be innovative. Although these benefits seem promising, researchers say it simply isn’t enough.
- Continuing education is not just for our children. It encourages family time and creative activities at home. While students can get involved in summer camps and field trips to other STEM-related events, parents can keep kids involved and ready for the new school year.
- Helping students make real connections to what they’re learning outside the classroom and foster these experiences with them is just as important as what they learn in school.
With a little creativity, you can help fuel your children’s summer break with STEM. Here are 5 simple ways to do it:
1. Visit your local library to explore all the fields in STEM.
Reading is a very important activity to help boost your child’s brainpower, even if it’s just for half an hour. Some schools have summer reading lists that students can take home based on subject and topic. Books like The Three Little Pigs' Sledding Adventure or The Rocket Age Takes Off are great examples for primary students to read. Share books about aerospace, geography, mathematics, or even coding. You will not only grab their attention, but story time on various topics can spark a hobby for these young minds.
2. Get creative at home, build something fun, and encourage curiosity.
Remember that STEM can involve art, too. Kids love toys, but how cool can it be to build your own? Keep children engaged and create activities like making slime or building with LEGOS. Or try finding other STEM activities. I work with SAE international, a US-based engineering organization that offers k-16 STEM education opportunities. Activities from SAE International’s (A World In Motion® (AWIM), a PreK-8 STEM education program that brings STEM in the classroom and beyond help students build fun creations that integrate real-life, role-playing experiences like developing straw rockets or balloon-powered toy cars that meet specific performance criteria like; travels far, carries weight, or goes fast. If something goes wrong while building it, ask questions to encourage your student to discover what caused the problem during the process and motivate them to fix it.
3. Make STEM a part of your everyday life.
Having a helper in the kitchen is an excellent learning opportunity. You can practice fractions by measuring the ingredients to bake cookies, or explain the difference between a solution and a mixture while making salad and salad dressing. And even though household tasks and errands tend to take up a large part of our day, don’t forget to expose your child to the outdoors. Being in nature offers countless opportunities to explore and learn about the environment. Plant a tree in your backyard, set up a bird feeder, or study the moon and star constellations.
4. Utilize free digital resources and online activities.
Take advantage of the untapped resources sitting right in front of you. Technology can play a helpful role, if you use it wisely. Use online hubs with free printables, activities, and videos to watch to learn more about a certain topic. Have your kids watch documentaries or DIY videos to learn how to build something. Some online platforms like NBC Learn, PBS, National Geographic, and NASA have activities that introduce STEM to children of all ages.
5. Connect with your community.
There is a whole network of passionate leaders who care about STEM just like you do. Find ways to connect your child with STEM professionals in the real world, starting with your own community! You can find these people in your community, from your local library and museums to hospitals and construction sites.
Teaching your children about STEM doesn’t have to take time out of your schedule this summer. Try using one of these strategies to help engage your child with STEM—you will be amazed at their increased interest in the classroom when they head back to school this fall.