What are you going to be when you grow up? This is a question often asked of young children by family and friends. As a mom of three girls, I heard this question asked many times and the answers my daughters shared were what they were most familiar with: doctor, teacher and artist. All noble professions worth pursuing, but the truth is there are literally hundreds of career possibilities available to young kids, some that haven’t even been invented yet.
Many jobs that exist today didn’t exist a decade ago, such as mobile app developer or AI software engineer. So how do we know what jobs will be available in 2030 or 2040? Although there’s no crystal ball that can show us the future, studies show that the careers that will be in demand in the coming decades are those that focus on STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. So as a parent or educator, what can we do today to ensure our kids get to where they need to be tomorrow?
Early Childhood STEM Education
To help prepare our kids for the challenges they may face, we can start by exposing children to STEM early in life. Children who learn STEM concepts early are better prepared to meet the increasing demand for STEM-based careers. Kids are naturally curious about science; they are fascinated with how things work. We can begin fostering this enthusiasm at home as science is all around us. Simple, hands-on activities can inspire kids to think about basic concepts. You can use your child’s natural curiosity to guide you when exploring their world.
For example, an afternoon with building blocks can be a simple way to explore basic engineering concepts. What block needs to be at the base of a tower so it stands tall? A block that is wide or a block that is narrow? How about some science in the bathtub? Why do some objects float while others sink? Look at snowflakes up-close and examine their crystalline structure or track the animals that reappear in your yard when the snow melts. Follow your child’s lead; you can stimulate their curiosity with open-ended questions and encourage their interest in the world. And if you don’t know the answer to some of their questions, there are several resources online, on our website, and at your local library.
Explore STEM Careers
You can also help nurture a love for science by showing kids what career options are available to them. Astronaut Sally Ride once said, “You cannot be what you cannot see.” When kids are asked where they see themselves in 15 years, chances are they won’t say chemical engineer, planetary scientist, or bird biologist—unless they personally know someone in these fields. This is where Scientists in School can help. We have developed an ongoing video series called “Discover Your STEM Career.” These short and engaging videos highlight careers in STEM that can excite kids and get them thinking about new possibilities. Our next video highlights Sara, a planetary scientist.
Diversity in STEM
Finally, ALL kids need to feel empowered, regardless of their age, economic status, race or gender. Every kid needs to see be able to see themselves in these roles so that they can envision their full potential. Diversity in science makes better science.
One place to start looking for role models is by checking out our new original interview series, Spotlight. This interview series shines a spotlight on scientists who are making a difference in the world and inspiring people along the way. During the course of its kick-off year, our panel included several trailblazing women in STEM from diverse backgrounds, and we’re continuing to create an inclusive series over the coming year so that every child can see themselves in STEM roles.
A highlight this season included an interview with Dr. Maya Warren, an ice cream scientist! Who knew that there is so much science in a scoop of ice cream? Watch the interview on our Facebook page to learn how Maya took her passion and her Ph.D. in food science and turned it into a career creating ice cream flavours around the world. Dr. Maya Warren also discusses how her science background helped her win the title of Amazing Race Season 25.
Perhaps the next time you ask your child what they want to be when they grow up, we change the question to, “What are you excited to learn? Let’s chat about how we can make that happen.” Let’s nurture our children’s creativity and provide them with resources so that they can make informed decisions. We all want the same goal – for our kids to be happy and successful doing what they love!
Author: Betty Bakopoulos
Mom of three girls, Teacher, and Host of Spotlight with Scientists in School
Tune in to our YouTube channel on February 4, 2021 to watch our newest “Discover Your STEM Career” video!
Meet Sara, a Planetary Scientist! As a Planetary Scientist, Sara explores asteroids and how they impact the Moon. In our newest Discover Your STEM Career video, Sara shows us a fun and hands-on investigation that we can do at home! Join us on our YouTube channel for the premiere on February 4th and learn all about the exciting possibilities of planetary science! We’ve created versions of the video suitable for ages 5-9 and ages 10-13.
Ages 5-9: 12:45 p.m. EST
Ages 10-13: 1:00 p.m. EST