How Parents Can Foster STEM Learning Beyond the Classroom


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Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts are central parts of life today. There are few jobs and everyday tasks that aren’t in some way supported or driven by advanced tools. This makes it increasingly vital that students can confidently navigate STEM subjects.

Unfortunately, there’s limited time during the school day to devote to this. As a parent, one of the ways to support their in-class education is to foster STEM learning at home. Even a little extra STEM activity, with encouragement from you, can help bolster their understanding, equipping them for the world they’ll be entering as adults.

Create a STEM Space

One of the things that can be a hurdle to STEM learning is not having the right space for it. These activities can be messy, sometimes noisy, or may require focus. Taking a little time to create a STEM space in your home can make it easier for your child to engage in extracurricular learning.

Garages often make perfect STEM spaces. You’re less likely to be overly concerned by spillages and their position away from the main house can make it more appropriate for noisier actions. You can make this a better space by clearing clutter so you can dedicate at least a portion of it to projects. Setting up clear workbenches that have power outlets can also make performing STEM activities more practical.

Wherever you set up the space, it’s important to have a safety-first attitude. Some STEM projects can present risks, particularly in regard to fires when dealing with tools, flammable materials, and electricity. Take the time to go through fire safety procedures for your home and garage with your kids. This includes talking about how fires are caused and taking precautions like avoiding leaving paper and other materials in areas near sources of heat. You should also create a fire plan together that includes exit strategies from the STEM space and how to use a fire extinguisher.

Seek Out Practical Projects

Classrooms are great places for theoretical learning. You may find that your child is less likely to want to pick up a book and learn about theory during their out-of-school hours, though. When you’re at home, practical STEM projects are a better way to go. These tend to be more fun and more engaging.

Indeed, one recent study of project-based learning (PBL) interventions in science lessons found that students responded positively not just academically, but also on social and emotional learning levels. Therefore, hands-on learning at home can be a powerful addition to your child’s educational experience.

One good approach to this is to look for projects you can do to improve your home that also reflect STEM concepts. For instance, an energy-efficiency project can incorporate elements of STEM. You can explore science and engineering principles by developing a solar energy project together or incorporating a smart thermostat system into the home. Mathematics principals are also involved in assessing the difference in energy efficiency and how you can improve.

Wherever possible, though, it’s wise to be influenced by your child’s specific interest areas. If they’re into gaming, you can start a programming project together. This can start with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Scratch software. From here you can build on basic knowledge to encourage more complex projects, such as app building and setting up home Internet of Things (IoT) networks. Starting with your child’s interests first can get them enthusiastic about STEM skills, leading them to find new ways to use these.

Engage with Community Resources

Remember that fostering STEM learning beyond the classroom doesn’t have to be entirely dependent on what you can provide alone. Every parent has different resources at their disposal, whether it’s funding for projects, availability of space, or even just the time you can dedicate. One approach you can take is to engage with community STEM resources that can enrich your child’s knowledge and provide positive collaborative experiences.

Citizen science projects are a good place to begin. Often these will be led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic researchers. They can be instrumental in passing on both knowledge of a subject and passion for it through their projects. There are some great online databases to search for local and national citizen science opportunities for kids, such as SciStarter and National Geographic.

Additionally, if you don’t have an area for STEM projects at home, there are a growing number of public spaces you can use. Libraries are often valuable resources, with librarians actively working with science educators and professionals to set up projects. Many cities also have maker spaces where students can learn practical STEM skills from knowledgeable community members. For example, at the library or maker space, your child could learn about 3D printers and their applications in a field like construction, where the technology is rapidly gaining ground.

For something a little more competitive, community robotics clubs often enter challenges in which diverse teams of kids work together to build a robotic solution. They learn from community members, one another, and their competitors.


STEM learning beyond the classroom doesn’t have to be complex. Providing appropriate space, collaborating on projects, and interacting with the community can enrich your child’s education. If you’re stuck for ideas, talk to your child about what they’ve been learning in STEM lessons. This can give you some ideas to build on with a few extra activities.

By Katie Brenneman.

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