10 min read
In this digital day and age, kids are growing up with smartphones and tablets at their fingertips. Modern technology is affecting the way we live, travel, work, and communicate with one another. Innovation is everywhere and disrupting every single industry.
So, how do we set our children up for success in this fast-changing world? How do we prepare them for jobs that don't even exist yet? The National Science Foundation sums it up simply: "In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, all students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past."
STEM-based learning has become a hot topic among parents and teachers. From teaching critical life skills (problem solving, computational thinking, collaboration, and creativity) to building technical skills, a great STEM education encourages youth to explore, challenge, and understand how the world works.
We spoke with 27 Chicagoland-based mothers to get their thoughts on the importance of a STEM education for their children. Here's what they had to say:
Nicole Zwiercan Mrs. USA Universe 2018
"As someone who struggled with pretty much anything math and science-related in my younger years, STEM learning would have been a game-changer for me. Kids love to be engaged on all levels - physically, emotionally, and academically! So, when you incorporate real-world applications and creative challenges to learning concepts, the way STEM does, a student's world is literally opened up to new possibilities. When the learning process becomes fun, interesting and empowering, children will be organically invested.
I think we can absolutely empower today's youth more, and I'm confident that STEM is one dynamic avenue for that!"
Kim Moldofsky Founder, STEM Kids Chicago
"Being grounded in the physical world and helping kids develop not just an understanding of it, but a sense of wonder about it, is key. That’s when they start asking questions. STEM education provides ways to answer questions about the world, whether they are basic, like how does a rainbow form? or complex, like how can we sustain life on Mars? And, technology-wise, it’s easy for today’s kids to be passive users and consumers of content. It’s critical to educate and empower all children to become developers and creators."
Leyla Tran Blogger, Second City Mom
"I believe STEM is important to my children's education because it permeates many aspects of our lives and is the future, in terms of innovation. We are lost without some of that technology. Plus...my husband is a mechanical engineer...it's in his genes and now in our children's genes."
Jill Salzman Founder, The Founding Moms
"It is, and always should have been, fundamental for kids to to be introduced to STEM and the possibilities that lie within an education that includes learning how to code. What better way to support our children’s future with knowledge in all things science, technology, engineering, and math, knowing that the Internet is going nowhere?
My two daughters already know how to code far better than their mama. Couldn’t be prouder!"
Dr. Cathy Subber Founder, Naperville Moms Network
"Learning through play in a fun setting is an amazing way to educate our children for the world we live in today. I wish the coding and STEM options we have available for my kids, had been available to me! I would have loved it as much as they do!"
Charlotte Betts Blogger, milknhonee.com
"My oldest daughter who is six is absolutely enamored with all things tech. I love that a STEM education equips our daughters with the necessary tools to nurture and develop their skills."
Jules Prokop Director, The Alive Center
“Our children’s future looks much different than our past. We are experiencing a tech revolution, and the opportunities for our children to change the world in a way we have never seen before is here. Through a collaborative experience with technology, innovation and entrepreneurship kids today will have the tools necessary to create these infinite ideas and bring them to life to better our world.”
Newenka DuMont President, Chicago Gifted Community
"We are raising today’s children to live and thrive in a world we cannot even imagine; it will be that different from our world today. Think of all the gadgets that did not exist when you were a child, and know that the pace of change is only increasing. One of the drivers of much of that change is technology, and that technology is controlled by some form of code. And yet we do not formally teach most children to be creators of technology or writers of code anywhere in their K-12 education careers.
Many people tell me their child isn’t technical and so coding isn’t for them. I say, my oldest daughter isn’t going to be a writer, so writing isn’t for her. And yet we can all agree that having an ability to write, even if you are not a professional writer, is a good thing. The same is true of coding. We teach children to write beginning in first grade, and we do not let up right through high school. Every single year they practice this skill until most all of them and produce a decent essay. Why aren’t we doing the same for coding? Starting if first grade, with the basics of sequential thinking so that by the end of high school every child can solve a problem using code?
Understanding how to code will allow our children to understand their world just a little bit better. Will they all be programmers? Or technologists? No, some will be writers and philosophers and economists and many will find novel ways to apply their coding skills to make their tasks just a little easier or more reliable or more interesting."
Neha Shahani Organizer, Chicago Desi Moms Group
"Kids these days seem to have so much brain power, it’s as if they are aching for more engaging and challenging activities/toys, are so excited to soak it all in, and have this million dollar look of pride and satisfaction when they create something ! By exposing them to STEM we are not only engaging them productively in the present but also helping them develop skills and interests now that will serve them later in life. The number of challenges in this world keep on increasing, its important that we prepare our kids to be responsible and contributing citizens who can find ways to face these tough challenges!"
Terri Brax Founder, TeacherCare & Women Tech Founders
"I'm a STEM advocate because I know that one of the most effective ways to set up ALL kids for success is to make sure they have positive training and experiences in STEM. STEM education gives kids the skills they need for not just work, but life."
MJ Tam Co-founder, Women Driving Excellence
"Science and Technology are pervasive in our lives today, and without the right adult guidance, I believe that this can negatively impact the children. I think it is our jobs as parents to foster and nurture the interest on STEM amongst our children starting from babyhood. Especially among girls. As they say, practice what you preach. I expose my kids to hands-on activities and watch what they consume from tv and all their devices."
Maureen Riordan Parent Volunteer
"I believe coding and STEM education is so important because kids are often having so much fun, they don't even realize how much they are learning. They become passionate about a topic and want to dig deeper and deeper. Coding specifically allows kids to make mistakes and get instant feedback to change what they are doing. They love to show what they created and can learn so much from each other."
Rainbow Partridge Founder, MamaTribe
"Coding is an important skill that all kids should learn, especially in today’s world, where technology and computers are part of everyday life. By learning to code, kids can learn this new “language”, how to problem solve, and be creative at the same time."
Helen Levinson CEO, Indigo Interactive
"STEM touches every aspect of our lives. Whether its coding a new piece of software, designing and building a car, or researching new medical treatments, STEM skills help us solve problems. My daughter’s love for technology was really sparked through programs like Codeverse, and her experience has confirmed the importance of teaching children to ask the question “why”. Hands on experiences through STEM and coding programs brings that natural curiosity to the forefront of their minds, and this is what the future world needs."
Monique Hypes Entrepreneur
"I'm an advocate for STEM education because it fosters creativity and innovation. I hope my boys will use the skills learned to test boundaries, think outside the box, and most importantly have FUN bringing their ideas to light."
Sonia Fernandes Organizer, Chicago Desi Moms
"Our family fostered the passion for STEM in different ways that led us to think. Beginning STEM education early on, sparks an interest leading to creativity. It helps kids analyze a problem, and figure it out, eventually leading to innovation. Our world depends on science and technology and the play-based approach makes it all the more interesting ! As parents we can facilitate learning and nurture the what and the why. While language is a means of communication, STEM is a means of communicating quicker and we'd all love the kids move rapid in the current world."
Joanie Johnson Clinical Researcher, Urology at Cook County Health
"Speaking from the perspective of a single mom of a girl and a woman of color, I am truly an advocate for STEM education in schools as early as possible. We need to equip kids with the knowledge, skill, and application to compete in a career market that is sorely under-represented by women and African Americans. Our kids need this exposure not only as an extracurricular activity, but formally as part of a standard of leaning in our schools. Also, the translation of key concepts and the application of STEM knowledge by solving real-world problems is one way kids can appreciate the relevance and experience the fun in what they are learning."
Shatisha Woods Founder, PlayNAround Events
"If you ask a working parent living in west/south suburban areas of Chicago if they have challenges with finding consistent enrichment activities for their small child in their area. the answer will be 99% "yes"! Being a parent of toddler twin boys, this is a struggle that I have dealt with since they were about 1 years old. That is why I decided to create PlayNAround Events, which focuses on developing unique and fun educational events for small children (aged 1-4) throughout the west/south suburbs. I believe that a child’s creative thinking and problem solving skills truly flourishes when he is continuously exposed to passionate educators that teach STE(A)M education."
Lisa Nation Founder, Lisa App
"STEM is not fools gold. It is the future of my children's opportunities. In fact, without an in-depth knowledge of STEM, I believe my children will be way behind the curve."
Arti Bedi Pullins CEO, Pundit Consultantz
“The power of learning, understanding and knowing STEM at such an early age, is instrumental for our kids. As a parent of 2 young boys I not only see involvement in STEM education as a valuable resource, but as a basic requirement of learning and development, in today’s day and age.”
Nora O'Brien Sales & Education Executive, Supergoop
"When you look at societal advancements through the course of history, the last 60 years look like we are moving at speed of light. I want my kids to be heavily involved in STEM learning and coding to both keep up with the ever-changing world and be a part of creating the future as well."
Ehi Aimiuwu Founder, Geek Empowered
"I am an advocate of STEM because of how acutely aware of it’s impact, in a world my children will have to navigate. As a mom on the south side, we find different ways to teach my kids different topics in stem through creative activities and getting them more involved with my day-to-day work to see what it’s like to working in tech. I know my kids need more exposure to STEM to get jobs, be entrepreneurs, whatever they choose. STEM education will be tool of survival in a professional world that is constantly changing. Literally a vital life skill."
Allison Leviton Founder & CEO, healthclx.com
"I grew up in a city that my father wanted to make sure that not only his children, but all city children, could have exposure and appreciation for advances in innovation that were happening. With technology being within an arms reach, I love that my daughter not only has STEM awareness, but finds the area she loves the most."
Kate Sprague Co-founder, Photography by The Spragues
"When I was growing up I was told I shouldn’t pursue a career, that was the man’s job. I am so thankful for Codeverse and the opportunities that they will provide for my daughter. The future is in coding. The future is female. Watching her build confidence while also building skills she will use for a lifetime does my heart a world of good!"
Fiona Odumosu Marketing Manager, Freudenberg Household Products
“As our world continues to evolve the digital revolution, STEM education is a foundational learning that our kids need to thrive for the future. Just as language arts provide a focus for holistic learning, stem is a tool that can help our children understand problems and discover tools for developing technology based solutions.”
Coco Meers Founder & Principal, Rebelle Collective
"When kids learn more about how things really work- the foundational math and science underlying so much of the world around us-it helps foster a healthy relationship with technology. As a mom of 2, I want my children to feel empowered by, not beholden to, technology. Through computer science and other STEM disciplines, we're teaching the next generation to get to the root of problems and to understand their world more deeply. With increasing reliance on technology in this ever-connected world, I love that a STEM education gives our youth the agency they need not just to compete in tomorrow's job market, but to positively shape the incorporation of technology in our future."
Kari Darmstadter Former Sales, Sanofi Pasteur
“I feel passionate about my children engaging in STEM because it challenges their brains in a different way than traditional academics and helps prepare them for whatever the future may bring. The jobs that my children will have as adults likely don’t exist today; engaging in STEM is a perfect way to prepare them."
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