Regular school timetables help to structure a student’s day and separate their “school work” time from “play” time, but that routine breaks down when they are required to learn from home. Many children lack the discipline and motivation to self-regulate and maintain their course work outside of the classroom.
Many parents in Hong Kong have busy schedules that keep them away from spending quality time with their children, let alone prepping for elaborate science activities at home. I often hear from parents or caregivers that they face a challenge when engaging their children in STEAM activities at home. Such activities are known to foster critical thinking and problem solving skills by using science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
Complementary to our VC@T S.T.E.A.M resources [add link here], we would like to share useful tips on how parents can incorporate a little bit of S.T.E.A.M in their daily lives.
1. Keeping it Simple
S.T.E.A.M activities focus on engaging critical thinking and problem-solving, and implicit learning happens when children are relaxed and driven by curiosity. While out hiking the Hong Kong trails, parents and students may make observations about the different characteristics of trees along the way. When at a restaurant, ask the children to calculate how much change they should get so they use math skills. When shopping at the supermarket, parents and students can pay more attention to the nutrient values, and discuss what is healthy and what is not.
Learning can be as sweet as a cupcake. Parents can try out recipes of baked goods and engage the students to use math skills and practice taking proper measurements. Other DIY projects can be found on websites such as Instructables.com and DIY.org.These resources are not only free to access, some projects are even presented as a series of related lessons where the students can deep dive into certain topics.
Instructables.com provides step-by-step instructions on how to build almost anything. DIY.org has courses with fun topics that range from Lego to Drawings. The latter also categorizes their projects into achievable skill badges through a variety of exciting challenges. From action photography to oceanography, the students are motivated to learn new things through their interests.
From our page of VC@T S.T.E.A.M resources, parents and students can also find step-by-step activities that correlate to their current science and social studies curriculum, and the activities they have done or will do at The Foundry.
2. Take a crack at Coding
The benefits of learning to code are more than most parents might think. By learning how to code, students develop a resilient mindset when they are solving a complex problem. They develop skills to break down a big problem into individual steps and components. Similar to playing chess or making sense of a puzzle, the students learn to look at problems from multiple ways and to adapt in working through the frustrations when solving any issues in their daily lives.
There are numerous block-based coding websites like Makecode.com or Scratch that help make coding fun and easy. On Scratch, the students can create games and animations using block-based coding and they can share it in a sponsored virtual community. Code.org not only provides simple and basic block-based projects from pre-readers level, but also suggest third-party online resources for higher level learners.
3. Be a Tinker Thinker
Do you ever wondered how a sewing machine works? What is the mechanism controlling the elevator door?
Parents can simply engage their children on any form of tinkering. “Tinkering” is a part of how our students solve problems everyday without realising they are doing it. Every time a student is immersed in the process of trial and error like fixing a broken game controller or following an origami sequence, they are engaged in the process of tinkering. This stimulating process foster the student’s ability to be perceptive, self-determined and innovative like taking their brain out for a work-out.
Remember that students learn best when motivated by their own curiosity, interests, and passions so it may be easier than you think to trigger their curiosity to find out how things work in their world.