Monday, July 11, 2022

So, Your Kid Wants to be a Scientist or Engineer… Now What? by Jennifer Swanson

 As an award-winning author of STEM books for kids, I get asked this all the time. Especially by parents or teachers who might not be that interested in STEM themselves. They want to encourage this interest but have no idea where to start.

Step #1: Allow them to follow their curiosity!

That’s how it started for me. I’ve loved science my whole life. Here’s me, as a young child. While it looks like I was just playing with a ball in a pool, I was probably doing my very first experiment. I might have been thinking, “why does this ball float?” and “what would happen if I push this ball under the water? Will it come up again?” I mean, I was probably two years old in this picture, so maybe I didn’t have all of these questions. But they were brewing there, right under the surface, waiting to be asked. And thankfully, my parents encouraged my curiosity. 

Step #2: Get them to the library! 
Kids that have an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math can find tons of resources at the library. I encourage you to let them roam the aisles of the nonfiction books. Encourage them to grab books about whatever topic interests them— sea turtles, cars, rockets, robots, elephants, quantum physics, or even the history of the world. Whatever captures their attention will fuel their imagination for the future. 

Step #3: Listen and Learn!
The best way to learn about a job is to talk to someone who is doing it or has done it. Remember as a kid when you visited the firehouse to learn about being a fireman, or went to the local grocery store to learn about how food is transported and sold. Both of those experiences taught you about those jobs because you got to see— and hear— about it firsthand. 

So, take your kids to nature centers or zoos and introduce them to the biologists. Go to a space museum and meet an astronaut. Or, if you don’t know where to go, take a listen to some podcasts, like my Solve It! For Kids podcast, where you can hear from scientists, engineers, and experts. Let kids dream that about the job they want to have one day. 

Step #4 : Get Involved! 
Get outside and explore the world! Sign up for a beach clean-up. Collect trash at a park. Go on a walk around a lake to notice the wildlife. Hike a nature trail. Ride bikes along the beach. All of these activities will introduce kids to the science that is all around them every day.

Curiosity. Exploration. Inspiration. That’s what it’s all about. If kids (of all ages), just investigate what intrigues them and strive to learn more, who knows where it will take them! 

Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of over 45 nonfiction books for children. Using her background in science and history that she received from the U.S. Naval Academy, and her M.S. in Education, Jennifer excels at taking complex facts and making them accessible, compelling, and humorous for young readers.  Jennifer's passion for science resonates in in all her books but especially, Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact and BEASTLY BIONICS which both received Florida Book Awards and  NSTA BEST STEM book awards.  Her Save the Crash-test Dummies book received an NSTA BEST STEM Award and a Parent’s Choice GOLD Award.  Jennifer has been a featured speaker at the Tucson Book Festival, National NSTA conferences, the Highlights Foundation, the World Science Festival the Atlanta Science Festival and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival in 2019. Her newest book, Footprints Across the Planet comes out next month. You can find Jennifer through her website.

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