What did you most look forward to when you went back to school after the summer break? Seeing your friends again? The smell of a new textbook or pencil case?
We’re guessing it wasn’t the school dinners or the homework. And if we’re honest, it probably wasn’t the science or maths lessons either.
But that was then. For the kids heading back to school this week, the prospect of STEM lessons – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – could just be the most exciting part.
Gone are the days when STEM subjects were considered boring. Fancy creating your own lightning? How about building a self-propelled car? Or seeing if you could power a human colony on Mars? It’s the new way for kids to learn and be inspired – you’ll find they have some great ideas about what the future might be like.
So where are all the scientists?
Currently there’s a bit of a STEM skills shortage. Young people are not taking the subjects on to further education, with interest in Maths and Science declining by 74 per cent among girls and 56 per cent among boys during secondary school.
We think that’s a real shame. In our everyday lives, we’re using more technologies and inventions created by experts who’ve studied STEM
Studying them in a different way at school and home can be a great way to stimulate young people’s imaginations, and help bring new ideas and theories to life. And it can open up long-term career opportunities in some surprising places.
It seems that parents agree too. We’re keen to encourage children and parents to think about STEM differently so we conducted some research into the issue. Encouragingly we found that more than eight in ten parents feel that STEM subjects are important or very important to their children’s development.
But these same parents feel out of their depth when trying to help their kids out on their STEM homework Our study shows that parents are more likely to feel out of their depth than confident in their ability to help with homework, whilst one in seven say they feel completely helpless.
More than a third say they struggle to understand the questions or subjects and 15% do not feel they are giving the right help. When one in seven parents say they’d rather clean the house or do the washing up than help their children with homework, something’s definitely up!
Revitalising young and old(er) minds
So what can be done to change all that? It starts with making STEM subjects more interesting and varied for parents and kids alike.
Which is one of the main reasons that this week we’ve launched Energise Anything, a new primary and secondary schools programme designed to inspire and educate the next generation of scientists, engineers and technical whizzes.
The programme is packed full of videos, activities, workshops and competitions to get the minds of 5-18 year olds whirring. Younger explorers can find out how to build self-propelled cars and solar ovens, and design experiments to investigate why penguins huddle to keep in the heat.
Meanwhile those a bit older can go on the hunt for energy vampires, try to keep ice cream cold, explore how defibrillators work and make music using wired up bananas.
It gives kids more fun and interesting ways to tackle STEM subjects, and offers parents more hands-on ways to bring the topics to life.
Inspiration in the classroom
Our programme can be applied to schools, too. Teachers can find a whole host of resources and inspiration to deliver the curriculum in new and stimulating ways. Perhaps you want to play Engineer Bingo with your pupils, or help students create a ‘Social CV’. Energise Anything is brimming with animations, downloadable activity sheets and ideas.
And it doesn’t stop there. If you think your child or class has ingenious ideas and creative thinking, then you should also take a look at the #MyEnergyHack competition, where the best ways of using, creating, saving or celebrating energy can stand entrants with a chance of winning some top prizes.
So why not try it out? It might just prove to be the first step on the road to an exciting career path. With STEM being integral to so many jobs these days – not just engineers or developers but roles like accountants, designers and lawyers too – the more exposure and understanding that future generations get to the subjects the better.