How 'Kids in Tech' is engaging Bay State kids in STEM education and careers
Many studies stress the importance of K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. The benefits of incorporating STEMs lessons early in a curriculum include getting young thinkers to feel comfortable with scientific thinking, creative problem solving, collaboration and inventiveness.
Olu Ibrahim saw a need in Lowell to educate more children about skills and careers in technology. The need is unquestionable, she notes. In fact, Ibrahim says economic forecasts predict that by 2024, 80 percent of the top 10 most in-demand STEM jobs in the Greater Lowell area will be in technology. Now, as Executive Director of the non-profit Kids in Tech, her organization offers education that serves disadvantaged kids and offers interactive, free after school programs in computers and technology.
“Our programs focus on helping kids develop the necessary tech skills and aptitudes to participate in and be future leaders of the 21st-century innovation economy,” she said.
“The goal is to make a difference and impact change.”
Since its founding in 2016, Kids in Tech has offered programs at four different sites serving low-income kids in the Lowell area and is growing. Ibrahim says the organization plans to offer programs in more communities across the region and around the country in the future.
But Ibrahim says her work on STEM advocacy goes beyond regional boundaries. Every child and family can use more STEM in their lives. She encourages parents in communities everywhere to advocate for more STEM-based curriculum and support, regardless of location.
“Work to create local STEM ecosystems--your STEM ecosystem can be made of schools, after-school programs, summer programs, science centers and museums, for example, that together constitute a rich array of learning opportunities for young people,” she said.
She also recommends community members advocate for policy changes to the local school board and work with STEM advocacy organizations to drive statewide STEM policy measures.
Parents play an important role in STEM enthusiasm
Ibrahim said parents are their child’s biggest advocate to remove “pre-existing cultural attitudes” around the STEM field, including who can or should learn these skills.
“Many parents feel anxious or lack confidence in their own STEM knowledge; something that may be passed onto their children,” she said.
Be mindful of your language and the message you are sending about your own experience with STEM topics and work and strive to connect STEM learning in school to the home.
Ibrahim recommends introducing STEM “in the context of developmentally-informed, playful learning—like block play, gardening, and exploring puzzles—which engages their own and their children’s curiosity and wonder.”
STEM skills are in high demand, and STEM industries are expected to grow significantly in the future economy. Engaging and interesting kids now in these areas can set a foundation that will likely serve them well in the future.
Making STEM Connections at Home
Ibrahim has these suggestions for getting kids interested in STEM:
- Encourage questioning. Asking questions sparks curiosity and that is what having a STEM mindset is all about.
- Make career connections for your kids. Allow your child to see a link between something they are passionate about and a career. Nothing beats passion.
- Seek out STEM extracurriculars. Visit a museum, enter a science fair or an engineering competition.
- Watch STEM educational programming. Documentaries and tv shows on STEM topics can pique your child’s interest in the fields.
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