(BPT) - Kids and teenagers nationwide are starting a new school year, which offers parents a chance to evaluate the ways they can support and encourage their children to help them succeed. Parents play an active role in their child's education, especially as it pertains to subjects that have increased importance within a student's curriculum.
In recent years, there has been an emphasis among science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, as it provides students with hands-on learning that can nurture their problem-solving skills. Moreover, science specifically offers opportunities for children to explore the world around them, and it's important for parents to know how to drive passion and curiosity for science in this next generation.
For easy ways to inspire your children's curiosity and enthusiasm for science and nature, educator and international STEM advocate Saki Milton is offering tips for parents to consider as the new school year starts — whether they're out-and-about or at home.
1. Let kids explore nature: Stimulating interest in science at an early age is key to encouraging their exploration and curiosity, and the natural world is a perfect starting point to engage kids in conversations about science.
"The next time your family is hanging out in the backyard, at the park or walking around the block, encourage kids to take in the vibrant ecosystem around them — which is full of living organisms that depend on each other for survival," said Milton. "Nurture their interest by encouraging hands-on examination, fostering questions and showing how science connects to the real world."
2. Elevate science outings: Take advantage of the wonder and exploration found in science centers, planetariums and natural history museums. Many venues offer interactive displays that can spark your child's curiosity in science-related fields in a fun, hands-on and engaging way. Consider spending time at one of them for your next family outing. Some host birthday parties or other events for children that offer an unforgettable experience.
3. Connect curiosity to future careers in science: Science is a perfect outlet for naturally curious children, as there are so many things to experience and explore. Considering how much STEM-related careers are expected to grow in the next decade, their childhood curiosity for science and nature may lead to a career that could last a lifetime.
Is your child interested in space? Experience endless exploration through astronomy. Obsessed with animals? Maybe zoology is for them. How about insects? Believe it or not, there's a perfect job out there for them, too. Expert entomologists study insects and use their research and knowledge to develop products that help protect families and their homes from insects and the diseases they may carry. The STEM™ line of products are scientifically engineered bug-killing insecticides and mosquito repellents that mix science with nature to help all of us keep those pesky bugs at bay. Their products, such as STEM™ Multi-Insect Killer Spray (Ants, Roaches, Flies) and STEM™ Mosquito Repellent Spray, are powered by plant-based active ingredients, such as lemongrass, geraniol or peppermint. With no added dye, fragrance or harsh chemical odors, they help fight bugs safely and effectively around people and pets, when used as directed.
4. Transform your kitchen into a science lab: Sparking love for science begins at home by transforming everyday moments into scientific adventures. One of the easiest ways is to run simple at-home experiments that can spark curiosity. You can become one of your child's science teachers this year by finding a few experiments to do together.
"Start with mixing baking soda and white vinegar to introduce chemical reactions in a powerful way. Or show them how plants and trees 'breathe' through their leaves by submerging a leaf in water and watching bubbles appear," Milton recommended. "Whichever experiment you choose, the point is that students love science when they actually do science."
5. Show versus tell: It's easiest for kids to learn and grasp new concepts when there's a tangible outcome of their work. For instance, absorbing information about chemistry from a textbook is much harder than seeing chemistry happen in front of their eyes.
"I always encourage parents and their kids to try household chemistry projects, such as making homemade soap or lip balm, which are great ways to learn about how substances interact with one another, as well as math by mixing substances proportionately," advised Milton.
6. Emphasize that science is for everyone: Last but most vital, remind your child that science is not a club for a select few. It's for everyone! Using positive and reaffirming language around your child can help foster a sense of belongingness in science.
"Remind them that science is for everyone, and everyone is a scientist," Milton added.