I have to admit that being a student of STEM subjects and “best teaching practices” is a very new topic for me.
It was only this past year, as a matter of fact, that I realized just how interested our youngest daughter was in science and technology (the S and T in STEM). (Yes, she was in 6th grade…please don’t judge!) (And for those who need it, E stands for engineering and M for math.)
At any rate, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, so she’s a much happier camper these days, and enjoying all the little goodies I dig up for her. OK, maybe not everything…life is certainly trial and error, right?!
Learning and studying have never been a problem for her – and maybe you have one like that, too. She is a voracious reader, loves to make new discoveries, and is a very diligent and enthusiastic student (most days). But while her brain engages right away, these days I’m learning about the importance of getting her hands involved, too.
So, for the benefit of other “newbies” out there, moms who may not exactly be STEM-oriented (as I once was…) I thought I’d spell out the benefits and importance of hands-on activities for STEM studies. Among the many lessons of my own over the years, I’ve learned that sometimes an observation to which one person may say “duh!” another might say “Aha!” So sharing my own lightbulb moments here, I present some:
Benefits of hands-on STEM activities
- Gives visual and kinesthetic experience with problem-solving skills
- Working on an activity also helps you see alternate approaches/methods to a given challenge
- Strengthens memory skills
- Kits provide for a wider range of activities and provide materials you won’t necessarily have on-hand
- Having your child document their activities also helps develop writing skills
- If you’re able to do some activities in a co-op or study group (or even as a family!) it encourages working in groups
Hands-on STEM activities worth trying
I was recently pleased to discover PITSCO Education, a STEM resource company that has branched into providing activity kits to the homeschool segment. They know their stuff, having been around since 1971 providing materials for traditional classroom use. Their site has a wealth of information available, from teacher development to cross-curricular integration ideas, and more. Over the winter break my daughter and her friend tried out the Kite Kit I’d ordered, and in a few weeks the Science club in our co-op will be building solar cars. I’ll be posting pictures on both projects after we get the solar project rollin’…
They have kits available for both homeschool use (single students) or small groups/classroom size, making them a great option for use in a homeschool co-op or study group. And their teacher materials are wonderful – thorough and yet easy-to-read and use. If you’re a catalog junkie like me, you can use this link to order one of their catalogs and take a look for yourself.
Other STEM Materials for Teacher Development
If you’re wondering as a homeschool teacher and guidance counselor how to best-direct your middle- and high-school student regarding a future career in these areas, you may want to look through some of these books here. I’m still looking through some of them, too, and will post reviews as I get through them…
Below are yet other books that are primarily for you as a homeschool teacher, to help you approach STEM more effectively at home with your kiddos. There are many other benefits to hands-on activities in these subject areas, and often a bit of education of our own helps us not only model a lifestyle of learning but serve our children as a better teacher, as well.
Start Making!: A Guide to Engaging Young People in Maker ActivitiesSTEM Student Research Handbook – Great resource for TeachersSTEM for All Ages: How Science,Technology,Engineering & Math drive progress
Do you have a child that enjoys STEM subjects, too? Can you think of other benefits hands-on activities may have? Know of other quality sources for kits or activities? We’d love to hear your experiences and learn from your wisdom in the comments below!