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Reprinted from PORCH with the approval of the author
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended education for teachers, parents, and students alike, but before that revolution, there was another one just as profound. Long before parents were asked to double as in-home teachers, educators were focusing on STEM education, turning their sights to the important fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
The importance of STEM education is difficult to overstate, and the vitality of these fields is only expected to increase in the years and decades to come. With the world currently undergoing an information-based paradigm shift, the jobs that survive the coming artificial intelligence disruption will be the ones that harness creativity in new and profound ways.
Whether your kids are learning at home on a full-time basis or supplementing their classroom time with screen time, there are some wonderful STEM activities families can do at home. Some of these activities can be done in the great outdoors, where children can revel in the beauty of nature and parents can get some much needed fresh air. Others are indoor activities, perfect for rainy days and those dark winter nights.
What they all have in common is that they make learning fun. If you want to spark a lifetime love of learning in the next generation, mixing enjoyment with education is always a great place to start. With that in mind, here are some of the best and most creative indoor and outdoor STEM activities for parents, children, and the entire family.
From STEM toys that can entrance and entice the youngest children to STEM activities that spark curiosity and foster a love of learning, science, technology, engineering, and math can play a powerful and productive role in the education of students. By making learning fun, educators, parents, and society at large can use STEM as a kind of shortcut, and as a stand-in for schooling that will stand the test of time.
All of this may be true, but the real benefits of a STEM education go far beyond the current generation. Indeed, the true potential of science, technology, engineering, and math are rooted in the future, a future that will likely be dominated by machine learning, artificial engineering and technological advances the current generation can only dream about.
Experts predict that the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics is likely to be as disruptive as the industrial revolution of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, if not more so. Like previous disruptions in the social order, the industrial revolution improved many lives, but it also put millions out of work.
Now a new revolution is hurtling our way, and the devastating impact on employment is being widely predicted. When that future is fully realized, whole classes of workers will be permanently displaced, but others will find a rich field of employment opportunities in its place.
Those successful workers will need to be adaptable, intelligent, and highly educated, and they will likely emerge from the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Children who are well-grounded in STEM education from an early age should have the best shot at success, and parents and educators can lead the way.
Parents can start the education at home, even before their youngsters leave for kindergarten. Through the use of STEM toys, parents can foster a curiosity that will last a lifetime, and those early experiences will feed on one another and pile up through the years.
The learning can continue through subsequent ages, with STEM projects that can be done at home, in the grocery store, and even on vacation. Something as simple as computing discounts on a shopping trip can be informative, while later and more complicated STEM projects can reinforce those lessons and provide even greater benefits.
The job of every parent is to prepare their kids for the next stage in life. Whether that next stage is moving on to kindergarten, moving out to college, or somewhere in between, lessons in STEM are sure to serve them well. Giving your child a firm grounding in the tenets of science, technology, engineering, and math will prepare them for a future filled with artificial intelligence, factory running robots, machines that learn, and other 21st century advances.