STEM At Home
STEM isn’t just for the classroom. Parents can build a child’s problem-solving skills by integrating inquiry-based learning concepts at home. “I think as parents, we oftentimes feel like we need to have all of the answers, but the STEM approach to learning is about asking the questions and being OK with not knowing the answers, then exploring and researching,” says Mary Rouse, director of outdoor experiences, Cleveland Metroparks. Here are simple ways to slide STEM into everyday life.
Encourage curiosity. “Rather than spitting out the facts when a child has a question, turn it around to another question,” Rouse suggests. “Why do you think salamanders are coming out of those puddles in the spring? What could they be wanting? When a child makes an observation, give them another question to consider and learn the answer together.”
Step back. “Students might want to give up because it can be frustrating to discover an answer rather than being told upfront, so parents can allow their children to grapple for a bit,” says Kimberly Corrigan, director of STEM at Laurel School. “Instead of just giving them the answer, encourage discussion. Try modeling, even drawing by asking, ‘What do you think is happening? Let’s draw it out. How do you think it works?’”
Praise perseverance. Corrigan suggests, “Rather than praising your child for knowing an answer or being smart, praise them for putting in the time to learn, or for their hard work and perseverance.”
Preparing students for STEM careers is a focus at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), one of four U.S. community colleges to receive a National Institutes of Health grant called Bridges to Baccalaureate. “The grant prepares students to a four-year institution in biological sciences,” says Ormond Brathwaite, Ph.D., associate dean of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Students in the program participate in a research environment at Cleveland State University or Case Western Reserve University. They are mentored by the lab group while receiving a stipend, and after the first year of transfer to CSU or CWRU, they are awarded 60% of the tuition.
Exposing a diverse student population to STEM programs is important for closing a gap that currently exists. At Tri-C, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation grant from the National Science Foundation helps underrepresented students pursue STEM careers.
Laurel School’s Kimberly Corrigan points out that women make up about 25% of the STEM workforce. It's her goal to give students experiences early on to break those stereotypes. “We concentrate on helping girls feel more empowered to join those fields and take risks.”
Encouraging STEM in school and through grant-based programs helps create pathways into fulfilling STEM careers. Magnificat’s Colleen Greller, associate dean of curriculum an instruction, adds, “STEM is an opportunity for young people and especially girls to use their learning in an integrated way, and this has become more important in all careers.”