By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
Let’s dispel the idea that science requires a brilliant mind akin to the genius of Sir Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein. We all have brains that can be shaped to develop the science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) skills that are critical for 21st-century students. It’s increasingly the case that such skills may be just the ticket to a fulfilling and lucrative career in the decades to come. And besides, geeks are cool these days. So how to encourage a child who shows an interest in science?
Beyond the Classroom
No matter where you live, every town, city, and region is rich in opportunities for developing budding scientists. An easy hike or nature trail can take in diverse botanical observations. A visit to the petting zoo produces curiosity about animal biology. A trip to see butterflies or dinosaur bones displayed at a museum or in a state park is a window into natural history. Checking out exhibits at the science museum can spark questions about anything from ancient volcanic eruptions to the exploration of outer space. Exploit the depth and breadth of experiences beyond the classroom to uncover what a child may not otherwise have stumbled across.
Investigate Everyday Objects
How does Alexa or Siri understand us? How does the television work? What are microwaves? And how about the functionality behind WI-FI? The 21st century American home is filled with everyday objects that prompt such questions. The answers are easily found and they’ll fascinate middle school scientists-to-be. When parents pose such questions, kids can be encouraged to use the internet or the library to find out the answer. Think of ways to further support science learning. Why not invite a child to come along when you’re visiting the genius bar to repair an iPad or upgrade a smartphone, for example?
Learn to Code
If you know how to read, you can learn how to code. High schoolers with a propensity for science can pursue tech skills by learning to code in summer camps, summer school programs and by enrolling in online courses. Technology camps are becoming as popular as sports camps and just as much fun for the entrepreneur of the future. Many universities have summer programs for older teens. For online learning, Khan Academy, Udemy, and Coursera are among those providing thousands of beginner to advanced resources for STEAM-related instruction including writing code, computer programming, computer science, computer design and animation, and more.