The Attenborough Effect: 3 ways to get children into STEM subjects

Shaping the future of our kids motivating them with nature

While many children dream of being explorers, STEM subjects (aka Science Technology Engineering Maths) sounds daunting for most of them! There is nothing like the Attenborough effect, which has brought us a positive outcome for both parents and children to become more interested in the environment, and consequently to take action tackling the world largest problems. Rachel Hall is the Managing Director of Busy Things, who provide fun and educational games to schools and families. Here she explains some practical ways to get our children to be more interested in STEM subjects. This environmental crisis needs a strong future based on science.

The world is becoming a much more eco-conscious place, and even the average Brit is looking for ways to help fight pollution and climate change. This is thanks in part to the success of David Attenborough documentaries like Blue Planet and Planet Earth, whose footage of plastics and endangered wildlife have inspired us all to try harder – a phenomenon known as the Attenborough Effect.

It’s crucial that we raise our children with respect for the environment and an understanding of the consequences of unsustainable behaviour. One of the ways we can do this is to get them interested in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school. These subjects can set them up to be more prepared to tackle environmental issues, like climate change, and they could encourage your children into careers in these industries later in life.

“Both my parents were educationalists and they recognised that education is not a matter of getting facts and sowing them within brains, but that it is an attitude of mind that you teach children to find out for themselves.”
David Attenborough 

So, below I’ll be sharing a quick guide to STEM subjects and giving you three ways you can make them capture your kid’s attention.

The importance of STEM subjects

Science, technology, engineering and maths are key subjects that lead to careers in industries fighting against the world’s problems. The issue is that, while children seem interested in STEM topics, they’re reluctant to consider them as options for higher education or careers. One reason could be that many children fail to make the link between sciences they enjoy and sciences they learn at school. The emphasis on grading and exams can also be daunting to many budding STEM students, so they decide to pursue ‘easier’ subjects instead.
Whatever the cause, making sure your kids are interested in STEM subjects early on in their lives can help them to be more likely to pursue degrees and careers in these fields. This can set them up for more lucrative jobs in the future and could hopefully mean they eventually play an important part in saving the planet, as eco-friendly scientists or engineers, or in other important roles.

The Attenborough Effect: 3 ways to get children into STEM subjects

How to get kids interested in STEM subjects

Below, I’ll be taking you through three great ways to instil a love of science, technology, engineering and maths in your kids early on in their lives. Try not to force it — these methods should feel natural to your child and, by making them part of everyday life, you won’t encounter too much resistance from your little ones.

1. Nurture their curiosity

Kids are naturally full of curiosity. Allow them to exercise it by encouraging them to interact and experiment with new things, both practical and digital. Support their endeavours, even if they just seem like passing fancies: if they’re interested in filmmaking one week, for example, what they learn there can be used in lots of other areas of life too. So, it’s not a waste of time if they quickly move onto something else.

Introduce them to lots of new places by taking them out on trips and go to the zoo and aquarium as often as you can. Exploring these new worlds can help them understand how everything fits together and, as they’re fun days out, they won’t even realise they’re educational.

The Attenborough Effect: 3 ways to get children into STEM subjects

If you have a garden, outdoor learning is another great opportunity for kids to explore the relationship between science and nature. Some might enjoy independent wildlife projects, like worm or ant farms, that can help them understand habitats and how easily impacted they are by human actions. All children will enjoy growing their own vegetables such as beans, carrots and tomatoes, and it’s a sustainable activity if you limit your use of plastic while gardening.

2. Using fun educational tools to develop knowledge

When we’re young, we learn better through play and developing STEM skills doesn’t have to mean sitting in stuffy lessons. There are plenty of fun games and tools that are designed to appeal to kids that introduce them to valuable STEM topics. Most of these programs and apps can be downloaded onto their favourite mobile phone or tablet, so you can take advantage of their love for the latest tech.

Tools and games can also be another way to measure their progress without making them sit exams, which can lead to ‘STEM anxiety’. Students often see STEM subjects as pass or fail because they’re so heavily graded, which increases the likelihood of them choosing not to pursue STEM careers. Through games, they can enjoy the process of learning without realising they’re passing tests.

The Attenborough Effect: 3 ways to get children into STEM subjects

3. Apply STEM to everyday life

It’s important for parents to remember that STEM skills are applicable to almost every aspect of everyday life, and we should be the ones to introduce this concept to our children. From cooking to shopping to music, you should talk them through the science or mathematics behind what you’re doing as you do it, even if that just means measuring ingredients or working out sale prices. It’s also a good idea to involve them in troubleshooting your computer problems and DIY projects so they can practice their problem-solving skills.

These activities normalise STEM and your children will learn to stop thinking of them as separate or closed-off. Instead, they’ll realise how integrated science, technology, engineering and maths are in everything we do and be less likely to feel intimidated by them at school.

The Attenborough Effect: 3 ways to get children into STEM subjects

These are three ways you can get your kids into STEM subjects, but there are plenty more that you could try. Whichever way you do it, instilling a love for science, technology, engineering and maths early on in your little one’s life could mean great prospects for them. And, hopefully, for the planet too.

Have you noticed the Attenborough effect too? How? Share your comments with us below!

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Rachel Hall

Rachel Hall is Managing Director of Busy Things, who provide fun and educational games to schools and families. Busy Things is an award-winning online subscription resource aimed at children up to age 11. The resource keeps children entertained whilst learning, hosting a range of activities, games, quizzes and tools. The site suits all different types of learning and is regularly updated to stay up to date with the latest curriculum and technology.

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