How to Encourage a Child’s Love of STEM

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
By: Debbie Koufas, Research Scientist and Kris Norwood, Internal Communications, Crop Science, a Division of Bayer
Students using a microscope in MSMS experiment

The 2016-17 school year is finally underway! Some of you may be saying, “Where did the summer go?” or “Finally, it’s time to get back to a routine.” As kids and teachers get settled back in their classrooms, they look forward to new learnings and having some fun along the way!


This summer, some North Carolina elementary school teachers dedicated their time to learning and sharing techniques for hands-on science learning, at a Bayer-sponsored Making Science Make Sense (MSMS) workshop. They spent the day trying new experiments for their students and meeting with scientists at the Crop Science headquarters in Research Triangle Park; Learning many applicable ways to bring both science and agriculture to our classrooms.


Career opportunities in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) continue to grow, and elementary teachers know that capturing students’ hearts and minds early is key to creating a lifelong passion for science.  So we asked them,


“What can parents do to help teachers to encourage students’ love of STEM subjects?”


Students react to the launch an Alka-Seltzer rocket
Students react to the launch an Alka-Seltzer® rocket. Hands-on science activities can help to build a lifelong passion for STEM.

Encourage students to create and build.

“When we started our STEM Lab at our elementary school, most of our students thought engineers were only the people who drove trains. They come from high poverty and do not have LEGO® sets or creative play sets. We introduce them to careers such as material, chemical and environmental engineering through authentic problem solving and activities. I now have students who dream of being scientists and engineers! Parents can help foster their enthusiasm for STEM by allowing them to create and build objects and by taking them to the public library and letting them explore books on science and topics they are interested in.”
Sandy Summerlin
Woodrow Wilson Elementary

“I have used LEGO® pieces, straws, marshmallows and toothpicks to have students create structures and learn how to be cost-efficient. My students create boats out of material choices so that they will not sink and can be guided with a magnet. Parents can encourage hands-on at home with some of the same activities. LEGO® pieces and play dough are great. I used to save garbage... like paper towel rolls and cereal boxes for my personal children to build cities and towns.”
Bonnie Bucher
Meadow Lane

Volunteer and offer resources.

“I think that one thing that parents can do to help support STEM lessons and activities would be to let teachers know of resources that they have at their disposal. Do they have materials that could help with lessons, know of individuals that could be used as guest speakers or could assist with STEM lessons and /or volunteer as STEM lessons are being taught? The resources that parents have could help students see that STEM lessons and activities can be used in many different aspects of jobs/lives and could also help build the connection between school, community and the real world.”
Jennifer Leggett
Lincoln Heights Elementary School

Discourage misconceptions and stereotypes.

“I am involved in a STEM committee with a different organization, and I heard one of the members state that the STEM awards should be difficult to get and that it was intended only for a select few to earn. That statement made me cringe. STEM is not just for the select few who want to be ‘nerdy scientists.’ STEM is not for the elite and should not have the stigma of being difficult or so hard to obtain that students give up before they even try. I want as many youth to earn that STEM award as possible, not for bragging rights, but so EVERYONE can have that Ah-Hah moment when they discover why the sky is blue or why airplanes fly. This is why programs like MSMS are so valuable, to give educators the tools they need to shatter the stigma and blow their minds!”
Jenifer Itenson
Boy Scouts of America

“The biggest thing parents can help do is help educate about the misconceptions and stereotypes about science and engineering. Parents can reinforce and help foster an environment where their child is able to try out challenges and experience engineering on their own! The best thing about engineering is, even if you fail, you still succeed, because now you have one less way something will work, and you get to go back and try again! FAIL (First Attempt In Learning).”
Meg Osterhoff
York Elementary School

Get involved with your student.

&ldquoAs an elementary STEM teacher, I strive to always include parents in my STEM instruction. Each year, I offer parent/student STEM Days for each grade level which involves a time that students work on STEM design briefs with their students. It is always amazing to watch the students communicating with their parents about their ideas and often times instructing their parents on how to best problem solve. Also, I organize a career day at the school and purposely invite parents to come in and share their careers with the students and discuss how they use science, technology and math in the jobs.”
Tawanda Johnson
Dearington Elementary School for Innovation

“Parents can spend quality time with their child working on STEM projects. At York Elementary School, we give STEM challenges where both parents and students work together to solve a problem at our school. Even trying to solve the smallest of problems can increase awareness and excitement in different career fields. Parents can foster engineering environments at home allowing their child or children to play with tools (parent supervised), tinkering with legos, coding scenarios online through free websites, signing them up for camps or classes, and sharing their experiences of what they do at work.”
Meg Osterhoff
York Elementary School

Encourage college.

“Parents can also help by motivating their children to prepare for college, even if the family struggled financially. Students need to know that they can go to college if they work hard, even if their family members did not attend college.”
Sandy Summerlin
Woodrow Wilson Elementary

Offer alternatives to electronics.

“I personally like to have children build and create with their hands before handing an iPad... iPad use is here to stay. They will master this soon enough... Hate how so many kids prefer iPads to actual hands-on learning. I feel teaching young students how to use their hands and heads first is crucial.”
Bonnie Bucher
Meadow Lane

Relate STEM to life.

“STEM is all around us. It is the science of how things work, nature and the planets around us, and the basis for everything we do. Whether someone is naturally inclined to being in sports, writing stories, debating public issues, building things with their hands, or caring for others, we all use STEM every day whether we realize or not… Expose as many students to as many demonstrations, effective experiments, fun activities, and information as possible. Don't just read and watch STEM, do it, and then emphasize how it is applied in real life: like using salt in ice to make ice cream, that baseball bats and fishing poles are also types of levers, and baking involves chemical reactions....the list is endless.”
Jenifer Itenson
Boy Scouts of America

Let children get dirty.

“Let children dig in dirt too! Oh yes... I used to let my boys take apart broken irons or toasters... Now both of our sons are scientists. Basically... Let children make a mess.”
Bonnie Bucher
Meadow Lane

Take advantage of resources.

“The earlier you educate a child on science, technology, engineering, and math, the greater chance inspiration, intrigue, and change can happen. A great place to start is linking up with PBS Kids Zoom Design Squad or designing activities based on the child's favorite interest.”
Meg Osterhoff
York Elementary School

“Go to Science Bob for experiments... Don't let children know the ‘right’ way of doing things... Let them explore and find it on their own.”
Bonnie Bucher
Meadow Lane

To learn more about the Bayer Making Science Make Sense® STEM education initiative please visit www.msms.bayer.com, or leave a comment below with any questions.


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