Supporting science, technologies, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at home
This page provides ideas for supporting your child in different areas of STEM (science, technologies, engineering and mathematics):
- What is STEM?
- Why is it important?
- Creativity in STEM
- Science activities
- Building STEM capital
- STEM resources for families
What is STEM?
STEM stands for science (biology, chemistry and physics), technologies (including digital and computing science), engineering (all types) and mathematics. As well as developing skills and knowledge in each individual subject, STEM-related education and training aims to develop young people’s ability to work across all subject areas through inter-disciplinary or project-based learning. This approach reflects the way in which STEM skills and knowledge are used in the world of work where a team with different types of expertise would work together to generate new knowledge, ideas and products.
Why is it important?
STEM underpins much of Scotland's economy. It is a key part of major sectors such as:
- Creative industries
- Life sciences
- Food and drink
- Financial and business
The skills learned through engagement with STEM are valued by many employers including non-STEM related industries and these are increasing in number. For example, it is estimated that there are 12,800 new jobs a year in Scotland's digital sector.
Partnerships between schools and employers provide many opportunities for young people to develop their employability skills. Look out for these opportunities in your local area.
Creativity in STEM
How can creativity support STEM?
Creativity is defined as the capacity to generate ideas, look at things with a fresh eye, examine problems with an open mind, make connections, learn from mistakes and use the imagination to explore new possibilities. Key creativity skills fall under four areas:
- Problem solving
Curiosity in children often leads to questions that are pretty tricky to answer. Some of these could be:
- Why do I have a shadow?
- How many different bugs are there?
- How do planes fly?
STEM activities can encourage children and help them find out some answers to their questions.
Things parents can do at home:
- Use a torch, pencil, paper and a toy to investigate shadows;
- Go outside to investigate bugs in the ground. Visit your local library to do some research or find out about bugs at your local museum;
- Make paper aeroplanes and test them to work out how planes fly.
Find out more about creativity with this handy guide.
Related links: YouTube - How can creativity support stem?
STEM and equalities
Children receive and absorb gender stereotyped messages about what they can and cannot do as a girl or as a boy from a very early age. The world around them and the representations they see can inform and influence these stereotypes. Having a broad range of experiences and opportunities for children will help ensure that they have equal opportunities to develop a range of skills and confidence regardless of their gender. Further information can be found here.
Building STEM capital
Many children enjoy STEM subjects at school. Not all children will continue to study STEM subjects or consider a career in STEM. Parents have a key role to play in helping to boost their child’s self-confidence in STEM – sometimes known as STEM capital. Talking to your child about where they see STEM in everyday life and encouraging them to think about how that relates to a variety of jobs and careers can help build and promote their interest and knowledge of STEM. Parents do not need to know all the answers. Encouraging your child to ask questions will help them to grow in confidence in STEM. Watch this video to learn more about science and STEM capital.
There are a range of resources to inspire children to help them improve their science capital. Here are some things to think about:
- How about doing some fun science experiments at home?
- Does your local school have an after-school STEM club?
- Why not take your kids to science and discovery centres to experience STEM in action. These centres encourage children to explore and talk about science whilst also being lots of fun!
- Talk a walk around your neighbourhood and think about where you see STEM?
- Look around your home and write a list of where you see STEM.
- Check out activities being held at your local museum. Quite often museums have interesting local STEM links such as The Museum Of Scottish Lighthouses.
- Check if your local college has free activities during science or STEM week.
- Check if your local library has a free coding club.
- Is your child interested in space and astronomy? Did you know that Scotland has designated dark sky parks?
- Visit a local zoo or wildlife park. Going for a walk in the park can inspire children to talk about wildlife or plants.
- Parents can talk with their child about careers that use science and mathematics.
Pathways in STEM
There are multiple pathways into a career in STEM including Further and Higher Education. This means that a career in STEM is open to everyone! There are also a range of STEM pathways through Foundation Apprenticeships such as:
- Civil Engineering
- Creative and Digital Media
- Food and Drink Technologies
- Scientific Technologies
- Social Services and Healthcare
- Software Development
Related links: Apprenticeships in a nutshell
Careers in STEM
Scotland, like many other countries in the world, offers many exciting and rewarding careers in STEM. The skills gained through STEM can also open doors to careers in many other sectors. For instance, transferable skills such as the ability to solve problems, make accurate predictions and draw valid conclusions can be applied in many contexts. As a result, STEM skills are valued by employers across all sectors.
Information on the current and future skills demand in each region of Scotland can be found on Skills Development Scotland’s Local and National Work. Find out more about Skills with this handy guide.
STEM resources for families
Every day can be a STEM day for families with the following selection of resources.
I am a scientist
The I am a scientist resource has lots of experiments for parents and children to try. Most of the things you’ll need to carry out the experiments can be found around the house or in the garden. The experiments are split into sections, depending on the age and stage of your child. Why not try some of these experiments and become a science family!
I am a mathematician
Parents and carers can play a vital role in reinforcing the importance of mathematics to their children, promoting a positive attitude towards it and making it a fun activity to do together as a family. The I am a mathematician resource will help parents to support their children's learning with fun activities to do at home.
I am an engineer
I am an engineer is a learning resource for families to engage in STEM activities using the world around them. The workbook is split into sections depending on the age and stage of children and families and supports them to learn about engineering in a fun and challenging way. You can find out more about the work of some real life engineers and have fun trying some of the STEM activities and challenges as a family.