“Why?” How Your Little One’s Curiosity Can Have a Big Impact
Demand for scientists and engineers has never been stronger, but many young people in the U.S. are avoiding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) because they don’t understand the opportunities, according to a recent Emerson survey. In fact, 42 percent of respondents would have considered a STEM major had they better understood the potential career path.
With this in mind, EverydayFamily.com’s Shiloh Johnson spoke to one of America’s top online science educators, YouTube star Hank Green (see the interview below).
Known for his YouTube channel VlogBrothers (the other brother referred to here is author John Green), he was one of a handful of YouTube Stars selected to interview President Obama last year. Green says engineering and science classes are the starting point for students wanting to make a positive impact on the world.
Green noted that kids, “ … have this innate curiosity. Kids are always going to be asking questions that we don’t know the answers to.” It’s our responsibility as parents, or adults in kids’ lives, to foster the curiosity that’s there and encourage that interest. Green reminded us that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know,” when faced with a question we don’t know the answer to. Going through the process of finding out the information and learning with your child, showing that you are really curious and passionate about these subjects as well, is so valuable.
When discussing girls and women in STEM, Green said, “We have an image of what a scientist looks like, and a lot of times people feel like if they don’t look like that then they are probably not cut out for it.” But if we do our part, fostering that curiosity and encouraging those interests that kids naturally have, both boys and girls can build their dreams of STEM careers. Green added that the other thing we can do for our kids is, “Focus on letting them know that when something is hard and when they do a difficult thing, that’s the most praise-worthy of all the things they do.” It’s easy to praise kids for things they are naturally talented at, but it is far more important to show them that you’re proud of their hard work and that their perseverance pays off.
Green has been working in a partnership with an engineering company, Emerson, on their award-winning “I Love STEM” initiative, which inspires millennials to enter science, technology, engineering and math fields. As part of the “I Love STEM” initiative, Green and Emerson offer STEM resources to the next generation of innovators. Definitely check it out!
Now, you may be thinking, “STEM is really more for school-age children.” But STEM is just as fun for infants, toddler, and preschoolers too! The University of Washington Center for Research and Professional Development reminds us that science begins with babies! Babies are born knowing the scientific method (please see their cute visual on page 9). Simply allowing infants and toddlers to explore and investigate the real world begins their STEM education. Resources to give you some ideas on introducing your infant or toddler to STEM include naturalstart.org, North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), the United States Department of Education, and NAEYC.
School Library Journal also has some great ideas for STEM for Toddlers. They acknowledge that toddlers learn patterns when they sing songs, learn one-to-one correspondence when they work on puzzles, and learn about sorting when they help clean up, and they have many suggestions on how to help incorporate more STEM into your day.
So encourage curiosity and questions, have fun, and enjoy STEM right along with your little one.