STEM at Home

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning helps children to develop skills in problem solving, critical and creative thinking and collaboration. These life skills underpin new and exciting careers of the future. 

Participation rates of women in engineering, computing and physics in high-school, tertiary education and VET are low. Parents and carers play a vital role in influencing children’s perception and confidence around STEM subjects and careers. The language used in conversations, books they read, toys they play with and the technology they use, all impact on choices that children make.

More than ever before, parents and carers are busy supporting, guiding and engaging with their children’s education. Useful resources, events and videos to help engage children with STEM can be found below.

family bonding together

Building confidence in STEM starts at home

From an early age, girls are exposed to gender stereotypes and bias from family members and peers that deter them from developing confidence and interest in STEM subjects and skills.

By the age of 6, most children identify science as a male profession. While children have become more likely to draw a woman when asked to draw a scientist, they still draw nearly twice as many male scientists over female ones.

Gender stereotypes maintain and reinforce gender inequality across society at large. For young girls, gender stereotypes can significantly impact their confidence and perceptions about what they can and cannot do. As girls progress through school, higher education and the workplace, gender stereotypes become increasingly difficult to navigate and overcome.

Parents have great power to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage the development of STEM skills and interests at home. When girls and boys are encouraged to pursue their interests in STEM, we pave the way forward to achieving gender equality not only in STEM, but across all other facets of society.

Girls in stem

Develop the STEM skills of the future today

STEM skills are the defining skills of today and the future. As workplaces change and grow and as the world at large is faced with new challenges, developing STEM skills has never been more important. By encouraging the development of STEM skills through inclusive resources and collaborative activities, all children are given the opportunity to confidently pursue their interests in STEM. 

What are STEM skills?

The wonderful thing about STEM is that STEM skills can be introduced and encouraged at home. Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith says, “Learning problem-solving skills through play is a very important thing, so children can learn how to resolve conflict to prepare them later in life. When kids hone this skill, it can lead to a healthy level of self-esteem and self-confidence.”

STEM concepts and skills encourage children to play, experiment, ask questions and learn about the world around them. Encouraging STEM at home for both boys and girls allows children to develop skills and values including: problem solving, communication, designing, building and creativity.

Strategies for Building STEM skills at home

1. Reduce bias and stereotypes in activities and play

As parents, being aware of our language and actions when doing activities with children can help us avoid reinforcing stereotypes and reduce the effect of our biases. Role model behaviour and actions that challenge stereotypes, e.g; women exploring, building and fixing, and men helping, cooking and dancing.  

For more resources on STEM education and strategies to encourage girls in STEM, head to the Girls in STEM Toolkit.

2. Share inclusive STEM resources

TV shows and books often portray boy/men and girl/women characters according to gender stereotypes. Think about how many TV shows you watch that have men characters problem solving, building or fixing things and women characters in caring roles, doing chores or artistic activities. Children are more likely to repeat the stereotypical examples they see, and this includes examples at home and at school, where stereotypes are often reinforced. Within this framework, other gender identities are often ignored.

3. Flip the gender stereotype

When students ask science questions, position women role models as the ‘experts’ answering kids’ questions or helping children find out the answer.  In children’s books and media, it is common to find male characters who are brave, curious and risk-taking (e.g. explorer, scientist) and female characters in caring or submissive roles (e.g. doing domestic jobs or princesses needing to be rescued). You can challenge or flip these gender stereotypes and try to find examples of characters who challenge the stereotype. Swap the male and female characters or their actions in the story you’re reading.

4. Explore STEM at home with STEM activities for kids

Children can work together and explore their creativity as they build anything from rockets to bridges. There’s no denying that kids love technology. There are hundreds of engaging STEM activities for kids you can do at home. With the wonders of technology, children can now explore robotics and learn the foundations of coding with programs developed with little ones in mind. By including STEM activities for kids into daily play or weekend activities children are given the opportunity to develop foundational STEM skills.

5. Building confidence in STEM at home

Inclusive STEM activities for kids can be used to teach STEM skills in a fun way, which not only makes STEM more interesting for kids but also helps girls and boys retain STEM knowledge. 

Parents can greatly contribute to creating a world and future where gender-equality is realised. Encouraging the pursuit of STEM at home with inclusive strategies and a range of engaging STEM activities for kids, provides all children with the opportunity to confidently pursue their interests in STEM, now and in the future.

Interactive STEM at home resources

Future You encourages children to dream big about the possibilities in STEM. Watch the campaign video below and visit the Future You website to find out more about the 12 diverse and relatable characters in STEM.

References

Gender differences in individual variation in academic grades fail to fit expected patterns for STEM.  R. E. O’Dea, M. Lagisz, M. D. Jennions & S. Nakagawa (2018). Nature communications. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06292-0  

The Girls in STEM Toolkit. (2020). Classroom strategies for inclusive STEM learning environments. https://www.thegist.edu.au/media/1534/gist_classroom_strategies_booklet_web.pdf  

Women in STEM Decadal Plan | Australian Academy of Science. https://www.science.org.au/support/analysis/decadal-plans-science/women-in-stem-decadal-plan

Women in STEM Decadal Plan | Australian Academy of Science. https://www.science.org.au/support/analysis/decadal-plans-science/women-in-stem-decadal-plan

Events

Resources