Why all this STEM hype?

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I remember my sheer excitement when I was invited to one of the first computer classes at my elementary school. I felt as though the world of technology opened up to me, and I think those early days of computing really inspired my future in technology. Since I was afforded that experience as a child, today I am a big supporter of encouraging the next generation of girls into STEM professions. 

STEM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and is a term used often when discussing education or careers. Educational experts feel that it is critical for girls to learn STEM at an early age to ensure that they have a competitive advantage in growing fields like engineering and computer science. STEM jobs offer a chance to shape the world, impact lives and solve pressing issues; however, women are currently occupying only a very small percentage of these professions. I can speak from personal experience that often I am one of only a handful of women at technological meetings.

When I spend time with my niece, who is eight years old, and encourage her to pursue a STEM career, she is more about doing than talking. In other words, if I try to discuss the components of STEM she gets bored, but if pull out an interactive robot or engineering building blocks to play with she immediately gets excited. It’s clear that the earlier young women are exposed to fun, hands-on experiences with STEM, the better they are set up for success in advanced classes and innovative career paths.

Sylvan Learning offers a specific subset of courses, Sylvan EDGE, that are specifically geared toward encouraging interest in STEM. Sylvan EDGE classes focus on Robotics, Coding, Math, and Engineering for children in grades 1-8. I have attended these courses and am impressed with the curriculum and the teaching style. These classes are designed to engage students with hands-on activities and inspire them to master critical thinking. What I like most is that the classes get the kids away from their phones and into a unique learning environment. For example, when I visited a class  in New Jersey I saw children building ferris wheels with LEGOs and bridges with  K’NEX.

In the class about robotics, the children don’t just read about robots in a book. They actually plan, draft and build their own robot. This type of hands-on learning helps children develop real science and engineering skills including the ability to ask questions, solve problems, analyze data, create evidence-based arguments and then communicate their findings. The children are also encouraged to collaborate with other kids in friendly competitions—so that they can learn how to troubleshoot and solve problem within a group setting. It really is extraordinary to witness the enthusiasm and intelligence of these children shine when they are provided with the optimal guidance and support.

Sylvan EDGE also focuses on engineering. If I told my niece that I wanted her to take a class in engineering, she might give me a funny look. But, if I told her that she would be building a bridge out of K’NEX, I know she would be totally into it!  In the engineering portion of Sylvan EDGE, children investigate important science, engineering and architectural concepts. Then they build cool machines or even construct one of the world’s seven bridge types. Throughout the process, they are encouraged to think like a real engineer, discover their own solutions, and redesign structures to make them function better.

I remember how my first computer class in elementary school was pivotal for my future (and at that time we worked off floppy drives!). So you can imagine with these hands-on future forward skills, why I highly recommend taking Sylvan EDGE classes for today’s generation. The courses are typically six weeks long. There are also summer camps, spring break camps, winter break camps, and one-day workshops depending on location. This is a great gift idea and solid investment into a child’s future.

Click here to learn more about Sylvan EDGE .

Click here to check out one of my national TV segments featuring Sylvan Learning.