What is STEM and why is it important?

What is STEM?

Why is it important to provide all young children opportunities to develop their aptitude in STEM?

 

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. 

90% of the brain is developed by 6 years of age. During the first 10 years of life the brain is undergoing rapid transformation of making new neural paths and pruning or ridding the brain of pathways that it does not use. Providing children with an enriched environment of toys, activities and experiences help support essential brain development. 

When kids enter kindergarten they gravitate to what they know and what is familiar. Currently there is a huge gap in the toys, activities and experiences designed for boys compared to girls with regards to STEM skill development.  Boys are often provided with building and construction toys such as LEGO, blocks and train-tracks. The vast majority of 'girls' toys are comprised of taking care of babies, play kitchen sets, cleaning, playing dress up and putting on make-up, none of these toys and activities build complex visual spatial skills or quantitative reasoning.

By the time children enter high-school, boys demonstrate a greater ability to visually manipulate complex objects and to mentally rotate them. However, these differences in visual spatial skills are greatly reduced when the researchers controlled for types of toys the child was exposed too.

In short, girls who played with building toys did not lag behind boys in the spatial abilities. 

Women make up almost 50% of the labour market, however only 24% of careers in STEM are filled by women and only 9% of engineering positions are held by women. STEM careers remain among the highest paid jobs. 

The world needs more Women in STEM, this starts in childhood.  

It was predicted that the higher the preference for spatial activities in childhood, the higher the mental rotation performance and intrinsic motivation, and likewise the greater the probability of choosing a STEM degree. "By providing spatial training to K-12 children, and providing spatially demanding toys before schooling starts, we can give them the opportunity to develop skills important in fields like science, technology, engineering and math."

 

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