By Jacqueline Dua
It’s summer, you have a middle schooler at home, and you want them to have a fun and enriching summer break, but you don’t know where to start. STEM is the answer to your problem. Children are curious, highly energetic, and love experimenting and trying new things. Creating STEM projects and activities is a great way to utilize your child’s high energy, inquisitiveness, and natural learning ability. Children observe the world, connect ideas, and form hypotheses from their experiences. They build models and break them down. They put together puzzles and mix paint colors. Motivating your child towards STEM doesn’t just enhance their ability to connect ideas and think critically, it puts them on a path toward being a part of the next generation of STEM leaders. Read further to discover six ultimate tips to be involved in your middle schooler’s STEM learning.
A parent’s influence on their children’s STEM aspirations also dramatically increases their child’s academic success. According to the National School Boards Association, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 report shows that family involvement resulted in higher achievement in math and science for children whose parents were interested in their school activities. U.S. kids who strongly agreed with the following statement: “My parents are interested in my school activities” had a PISA score of 508 in science and 480 in math. This is compared to a score of 466 in science and 444 in math for kids who strongly disagree with the statement.
Here are six tips to help you get involved in your middle schooler’s STEM learning:
First, encourage your middle schooler to identify with STEM
Look for opportunities to talk with your child about STEM-related topics. For example, you could speak about gravity when your child tosses a ball in the air, chemistry when making pizza at home, or fractions when cutting the pizza. Encourage your middle schooler’s curiosity and questioning. Instead of answering your child’s question or providing them with a solution to their problem, encourage them to research online, develop their possible solutions, and test them out. You can also use this to teach them about the scientific method and how to use it. Watch science, technology, and math-based TV shows with your child and discuss the tv program with them afterward.
Create positive learning experiences with STEM
You want to create opportunities for your child to feel independent and accomplished. Also, vary the topics to cater to your child’s unique interests and learning style. Children need activities that engage their curiosity and kinetic energy. They need to be challenged, but within the confines of their comfort zone so they are not discouraged and are excited and having fun. Middle schoolers that are challenged to the point of being overwhelmed will withdraw and give up. Always provide positive reinforcement and encouragement while motivating your child to participate in STEM activities. Also, remember patience is very conducive to adequate teaching and motivation.
Create real-life scenarios
Using real-world scenarios makes it easier for your child to see the importance of their learning and feel motivated to learn STEM. For example, while playing football with your child, you can teach how the density of a football affects its trajectory when thrown.
Find STEM-related toys
STEM toys can be great tools to help your child stay engaged in STEM at home. They also are an excellent vehicle for project-based learning. A chemistry kit can lead to a hobby of science projects and experiments. Or a rocket-building kit can lead to learning about space and rocket launches.
Go on STEM-related recreational trips
Taking your children to places like the local science museum or Luray Caverns is an excellent opportunity for them to learn about the natural sciences. You can also take them to robotics competitions or the Discovery Cube and encourage them to participate.
Look for at-home lesson plans
When you’re struggling to develop your ideas on how to guide and instruct your child’s learning, you can use many resources online to keep your child busy and learning about STEM. The National STEM Honor Society (NSTEM) cuts out a lot of the online search for you on our website. Below are additional articles from NSTEM that can include tips to support your middle schooler’s STEM learning journey. Also, while browsing our website, consider learning about our NSTEM chapters and how you can get your child to be a member of our chapters.
Do you want more resources on the topic of tips to be involved in your middle schooler’s STEM learning? NSTEM’s vast resources database provides thousands of searchable STEM resources by category, school level, and state. This comprehensive library includes info on enrichment activities, curricula, internships, scholarships, and more. Check out a free sampling here. Or get an NSTEM membership today to unlock the complete list.
Middle School is where students are transformed, entering as children and emerging as young adults. Project-based learning enrichment helps students connect the dots between STEM and real life, making math and science relevant for them, keeping them engaged and interested. With a meaningful middle school experience, students are far more likely to focus on STEM disciplines in high school and beyond. To start your 6-8, middle school chapter of the National STEM Honor Society, click here