Authored by Karlia Lopez, Afterschool Program Coordinator, Elk Run Elementary
My goal in working with kids is to help them become successful adults–By “successful,” I mean able to function in society as a caring adult, know how to take care of themselves and anyone else that may fall under their care. Success also means not only graduate high school but to receive higher education and be able to work to support themselves. Finally, success is also the ability to be active members of their community who voice their opinions and give service where they can.
One area we can all work on is helping students educate themselves. Talking education can lead to many roads but I want to look at one way we can help students increase their possibility at finding a successful career later in life through focusing on what their education includes now, no matter their age.
Why is education important to society?
A well-educated population results in a good work force, which then allows a civilization able to grow and progress in multiple ways. The trick is to make sure students are educated in the correct fields. In the 1800s, educating our children in agriculture was a smart educational choice. It made sense because the growing population needed to eat and it also allowed the production for non-food crop exports such as cotton. The US economy thrived during that era because of agriculture (Lebergott, 1996).
Where is the focus now?
If you were to Google “future job growth” you will find two major fields mentioned: Healthcare and Technology. Both Healthcare and Technology are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) related areas. There is talk about STEM all over the place because we need people who thrive in these areas for future jobs and economic stability. In other words, it’s where the future is headed. When we encourage growth or interest in STEM we are preparing students to find successful careers in the future. As a bonus, STEM careers usually pay very well.
How do we encourage involvement in STEM?
Believe it or not, there is a lot out there to get students involved in STEM. One of my favorite places to look for STEM activities is through Pinterest. If you don’t have a Pinterest account you can also just google “STEM activities for _____ grade.” If you know your child has a special interest try Googling “________ STEM activities.” My 1st grader is currently obsessed with mazes, so I could google “maze STEM activities” and if I don’t see anything that seems age appropriate I could try to Google “maze activities for 1st grade.” Many of these activities can be done at home.
If you have a career in a STEM-related field, you can talk to your child about what you do. Or take it a step further and talk to your child’s teacher or any group they belong to about presenting or doing an activity with the kids to help them gain an interest in a STEM related field.
If your child is old enough to start choosing the classes they take during the school day, encourage them to take STEM-related classes being offered through the school. They may not seem interested at first, especially if they do not have much experience with STEM, but looking up careers related to that specific STEM class including annual salary might be what they need to gain interest.
Children often need a little guidance or push to find things that interest them or to understand what will help them most in the future. If you don’t see success at first, try another STEM area. Maybe Math is not their forte but inventing or creations is where they will thrive. You will be giving them a life-long gift by even introducing them to something they may not have known otherwise.
Lebergott, Stanley. (1996). Labor Force and Employment, 1800-1960. In D. S. Brady (Ed), Output, Employment, and Productivity in the United States after 1800. (117-204). Washington D.C.: NBER. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/chapters/c1567.pdf