STEM education in elementary schools today is oftentimes limited to a robotics club, a computer science class, and maybe a basic engineering class if at all. Often these classes and clubs are very basic and don’t provide opportunity to properly explore STEM. However, extensive research shows children benefit from early exposure to STEM by positively affecting their development, life skills, and even future jobs.
The first 5 years of a child’s life have been long accepted as the most critical point in their development. Studies by the National Science Teachers Association show that young children learn through active exploration—and the drive to observe, interact, discover, and explore is inherent in their development. Introducing children to STEM topics, allowing them to explore their interests, and solve problems on their own, will teach them to question their surroundings, engage with the world around them more actively, approach problems with confidence and think outside the box when faced with new challenges. Science teaches inquiry: carefully questioning and hypothesizing before finding evidence to prove or disprove yourself. It also teaches that your initial thoughts may not always be correct and that that’s okay as long as you are learning. Technology is more important than ever and it is necessary to have at least a basic knowledge of the different mechanisms students encounter daily. Engineering proposes problems and encourages students to find their own solutions to those problems. It teaches them that as long as their actions achieve the goal they can make their own paths and don’t have to conform to any one method. Mathematics teaches patience, methodology, and logic. Following an equation and its progression in steps is very helpful in teaching students how to look at a process and how to identify mistakes easily within it.
Statistics by the US Department of Commerce tell us that yearly growth of STEM jobs is expected to be at least twice that of non-STEM jobs. In this changing job market, students will benefit even more from establishing an early interest in STEM and pursuing and growing that interest as they go through the different levels of their education. STEM is a very broad field and there are so many other interests that can join in with some facet of STEM. For example, artistically inclined students can work in designing and raise the aesthetic value of the product. No company can run without people with knowledge of business and marketing so as the STEM sector grows there will be more demand for people who can help with better marketing and expansion of businesses.
All in all, building an early foundation of STEM in students will teach them many helpful skills and educate them on the basics of the technology that will grow and expand over time.