(Dr. Clayton Lawrence, founder and CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on community wellness and inspiring others.)
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Literally a part of every aspect of our everyday lives, STEM is a critical component of education. Many school curriculums now stress the importance of helping children not only learn in these areas, but connect with them in meaningful ways.
Education should – and CAN – be fun. There are opportunities all around us to present lessons in a way that feels like quality time discovering the wonders of the world. LEAP Foundation DC mentee Kevin Akers understands the importance of hands-on educational opportunities. That’s why he, along peers who participated in the LearnServe International Fellows and Incubator program, developed STEM for the Streets, which exposes historically disenfranchised and underserved children in Washington, D.C., to STEM. Through science experiments and engaging lesson plans with scientists, engineers and doctors, participants see the world from a different perspective – one that is fun, engaging and full of wonder.
It’s easy to apply STEM to everyday tasks, but even more fun to set aside time to purposefully discover how these areas are important. Even better? Our educational tips are free or very low cost! Give some a try with the youth in your life and cultivate a love of learning.
Head outside to go for a walk. Notice the bees, flowers, animals and bugs. Make observations and compare notes later.
Plant a garden in a patch of dirt or a window container and take the time to measure the rows for seeds, water regularly and determine sunlight needs. Then watch the plants grow, learning what plants need to be healthy.
Prepare to get messy, whether through baking, finger painting or slime making. All of these activities require measuring, mixing and observation.
Encourage the youth to become a responsible digital citizen by demonstrating how our actions affect others and ourselves.
Explore the many ways that technology makes us more productive citizens and how it can be used to problem solve in other areas, like science, engineering and math.
Use traditional devices like microscopes and telescopes to dig deeper into science, like plant cells and space exploration.
Use Legos, blocks and discarded recyclables to create a ramp. Then take the time to measure the speed of various objects.
Take a road trip to explore the impressive bridges in your area. Then head home to replicate these structures with K’Nex.
Use everyday products like straws and playing cards to build a rollercoaster or castle.
Involve your youth in balancing the check book by adding, subtracting and seeing how money flows in and out, affecting our decisions.
Invite the young person to become involved in the kitchen, using math to make a double batch of his or her favorite cookies.
Spend the day shopping, but only purchase the items with the best price. This involves percentages, subtraction and thoughtful comparison.