What's all the buzz about?
STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), are in the headlines a lot these days. Girl Scouts are pushing STEM activities and providing opportunities for girls to foster their interest in the field. Programs such as Destination Imagination and FIRST are popping up all over the place to teach children about the value of science and tech. As a parent, you don't need to look too far to find amazing robotics and math competitions for kids. Are you curious to learn what STEM can offer your child? Maybe you are like other parents who are wondering what's all the buzz about. We are here to tell you that STEM or STEAM activities might be exactly the kind of things your child may thrive doing.
Why is STEM/STEAM important?
STEM is important because the workforce that makes up this field is growing almost twice as fast as other occupations. With such growth, there will be oodles of jobs in this field available down the road. Providing STEM related activities for our children at a young age helps to promote their interest and may drive them to want to work in this field one day. There are STEM related summer camps, day camps, and teams that involve children in thinking about science, technology, engineering, and math and we are going to highlight just a couple that you may not know of. These programs are available in the Austin area.
Destination Imagination is on a mission to involve kids in the process of taking something in their minds and making it a reality. Participants can join a local team and the coach helps them to navigate the creative process. Those steps are as follows: recognize, imagine, initiate and collaborate, assess, evaluate and celebrate. The website also explains that parents aren't to get involved and that this creative process is strictly for students to find solutions to common problems. Kids can even compete for DI titles. This program has grown to include over 150,000 students in 48 states and 30 countries annually. It has reached over two million students since it began. DI's website is loaded with information and is amazingly well organized. It even goes as far as telling parents and/or coaches to "Start here." If you have a creative child who is an innovator, check out Destination Imagination.
FIRST, which stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," is another amazing opportunity for children and teens interested in science and technology processes. This program is a not-for-profit organization founded by Dean Kamen. Dean started this program with a mission to inspire students to build their science, technology, and engineering skills through a mentor guided program. While some might identify FIRST as a robotics club, that's only a small part of what they do. There is room for designers, operation managers, coders, and more on each team. The goal is to use problem solving, collaboration, and innovation using today's technology. In turn, kids are engaged and inspired to improve the world around them.
Tell me more about FIRST.
Kids can join FIRST upon entering Kindergarten and they start out in the FIRST Lego League Jr. This league helps foster the child's interest to create something they can see in their mind's eye. After beginning fourth grade, the student will advance to the FIRST Lego League, which lasts through eighth grade. Seventh through twelfth graders can experience the FIRST Tech Challenge by building robots as a team unit. Then, students have the opportunity to play floor games with their robots to see how they perform. The highest level group is the FIRST Robotics Competition, which is designed for ninth through twelfth graders. At this level, students come together as a team to create and compete against other robotics teams. Students are inspired to solve problems and build their confidence levels while having fun. There is nothing better than that!
FIRST participants are eligible to receive college scholarships because of their STEM experiences. They will also learn the value of working as a team unit. The FIRST website boasts great results such as 88% of students show more of a desire to do well in school and 92% are more interested in attending college. (source)
Where can I find out about activities in my area?
While we highlighted Girl Scouts, Destination Imagination, and FIRST programs, they are only some of the programs available to children. Local schools also provide activities and there are summer camps and programs that provide similar STEM activities. Check out Kwaddle's list of activities and programs for kids to find out what awesome programs are available near you. You might even find that booking through Kwaddle will save you some dough.