The three ways to interest kids in engineering are:
- Talk about engineering in a way that’s appealing and aligns with their interests.
- Connect them with role models they can relate to.
- Lead students in engineering activities.
While there’s no magic formula involved, here are a few things to keep in mind.
According to Messages Matter (a research study conducted by DiscoverE and GRG) most kids don’t know what engineers do and sadly think they aren’t smart enough to be an engineer.
Yet, this same research found that students’ interest increases, especially among girls and students of color, when we share how:
- Engineering makes a difference in people’s lives. Explaining both the types of things engineers create and build and AND including the impact this work has on people (i.e., designing cars to make them safer for passengers) paints a richer picture for students.
- Engineering is a well-paying profession. Sharing the starting salaries of engineers and technicians is a great way to answer the “how much money do you make” question.
- Engineering is open to everyone. Telling students about the different kinds of jobs and careers in the field of engineering, including those that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, provides a wider roadmap into the field.
Role models play a critical role in nurturing a child’s interest in STEM as they represent what’s possible and give kids a chance to think about their future and who they want to be.
Whether you’re a parent, educator, or STEM professional, it’s up to all of us to find ways to connect students to engineers and technicians in classrooms and afterschool programs, at libraries and museums, or at colleges, lab spaces, and corporate offices.
When students undertake authentic, real-world challenges structured around the engineering design process, they are building their confidence in their ability to do engineering. When facilitating engineering activities, your job is to:
- Ask open-ended questions rather than telling students what to do. Questions that start with why and how help you gain an understanding of their thinking.
- Recognize the student’s effort and ideas, even if they aren’t successful. Give constructive feedback, be specific, detailed, and encouraging. A simple ‘good job’ does not explain why you think what they are doing is good, nor what they can do to keep improving.
- Be student-centered. Resist the urge to fix a team’s design or give them specific instructions on how to get the right answer. When students drive their learning, they are more motivated and engaged.
By following these three easy ways to interest kids in engineering you’re on the path to building your student’s STEM identity.