Activating the “STEM” Brain

Protons.  Neutrons.  Electrons.  We are quite literally surrounded by science every day.  But aside from the atomic makeup of all matter, science also envelops my thoughts as I develop science curriculums for Teacher Created Materials.  I live science and I breathe science.  And that focus on science doesn’t turn off when I head home at the end of the day.  I am a mother who holds science, technology, engineering, and math in the utmost regard.  My greatest hope is that I can instill a love for these subjects in my daughter, Samantha.

Asking the Right Questions

[caption id="attachment_57393" align="alignright" width="400"] Diana and her daughter Samantha[/caption]

As a teacher and a parent, I’m always looking for ways to activate Samantha’s “STEM brain.”  Mind you, she’s a kindergartner, so she is naturally very inquisitive.  But that’s the best time to captivate children, when they are curious and want to know.  We want children to grow into adults who value questions and curiosity.  To encourage Samantha’s curiosity and push her to find her own answers, I ask lots of questions.  What do you think will happen if _______?  Why do you think that happened?  What are some ideas that you haven’t tried yet?  What did you notice about _______?  The questions you ask don’t have to be complicated.  They just need to encourage further thought and communication on the topic.  And if your child and/or student is like mine, once the talking starts, it rarely stops!  Aside from scientific inquiry, these questions also encourage the problem-solving skills that will help make our children self-sufficient adults some day.

I also make it a point to connect Samantha’s playtime activities back to science, technology, engineering, and math, as often as possible.  That doesn’t mean that you’ll find her building toothpick bridges from sun up to sun down.  Instead, you’ll find her engineering furniture for her dolls and action figures (we say engineering in my house instead of crafting).  You’ll find her measuring things around the house…just for the sake of measuring.  (Measuring tapes are captivating things!)

Bringing Frozen to Life!

Even movies inspire science experiments in our house!  Check out how to make “Instant Ice” here:  Samantha loved being able to make ice instantly, just like Elsa does in the movie Frozen!  I loved that she was captivated by science, we got to talk about changes in states of matter, and we incorporated math to figure out the amount of time the water bottle needed in the freezer.

Whatever it is that you and your children or students like to do, there are always ways to add more science, technology, engineering, and math.  And remember, technology and engineering don’t have to be complicated or expensive.  Engineering is just the designing of human-made objects (technology) to solve a problem or meet a need.  Beach umbrellas, calculators, and even pencils are all human-made objects that were designed to solve a problem and meet a need.  Happy experimenting!

Now get out there and activate your STEM brain!

Your Turn!

What are your favorite STEM-based activities that engage and inspire your students?