There are many ways parents can nurture an interest in STEM. Encourage your teen to explore, experiment, and engage in problem-solving tasks at home, in your community, in school, and in STEM programs outside of the classroom.
Here’s how you can play a major role:
Make sure that your teen takes as many math and science classes as possible in high school.
Even if your middle or high school student doesn’t think they want a career in engineering or mathematics, with a basic knowledge of STEM subjects, their potential for career growth is limitless.
A solid foundation in these subjects helps develop skills needed in today’s workplace: Problem solving, analytical thinking, and the ability to work both independently
and collaboratively. STEM helps build knowledge at a higher level of learning.
Studying STEM also helps your teen develop important “soft” skills: Communication, cooperation, creativity, leadership, and organization—skills necessary to complete everything from school assignments now to major technological advances or new remarkable discoveries down the line.
Encourage your teen to pursue STEM subjects outside of the classroom.
Look into summer programs that offer fieldwork in STEM subjects and after-school clubs such as FIRST robotics. FIRST robotics is a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping young people develop a passion for STEM subjects through robotics competitions.
Sean Amos, rising junior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), credits FIRST with strengthening his resolve to pursue a career in the field of robotics. “It gave me hands-on experience with designing, programming, and building—I loved it,” Amos remarks.
Remember to treat girls and boys as equals in the world of learning.
Eliminate the idea that certain careers are just for boys or just for girls. Instead, reinforce that your teen should truly follow his or her passion. Again, STEM skills are valuable for any career path.
Be positive—and eliminate negative learning myths.
Well-intended parental statements such as “I was never good at math and I turned out fine” send the wrong message. Instead, encourage your child to take classes that may be difficult—and emphasize learning as a goal instead of always getting “the A.” Try positive reinforcement with statements like, “I believe in your abilities. I am proud of you for working so hard at something so challenging.”
Instill a “growth mindset” instead of a “fixed mindset.”
Christi Corbett, a senior researcher at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and prominent spokesperson on research topics regarding the gender pay gap and women in STEM explains, “Students with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence and talents are just set traits. With a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence. A growth mindset allows students to achieve at a much higher level, because they believe they can.
Inspire your teen to intern at a tech company.
Although any internship can provide the personal learning experience of working in a professional job, tech companies are known to assign meaningful tasks and pay their interns well. Many interns are actually offered full-time positions. See our article Why Students Should Intern at Tech Companies to find out the Top 10 companies a STEM student should work for—and where your teen should send a resume.
Be your own teen’s role model.
Rodney C. Adkins, IBM’s senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy, sums this up nicely, saying, “My father encouraged me to deconstruct, analyze, and experiment with our home appliances. The insight I gained into how things work together opened my eyes to new possibilities and instilled in me a desire to create new technologies.”
This article is from our 2014 Guide to STEM Programs! Read the whole thing here.