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How to encourage success in STEM careers through early education

Posted at 8:13 AM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 09:13:43-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Science, technology, engineering, and math impact us all in our everyday lives. With the new school year starting soon, experts in STEM — as it’s called for short — encourage parents to engage with kids in these concepts so they’re better prepared.

The co-president of the Tennessee Association for the Gifted and STEM coach with Maury County Public Schools, LeAnn Simmerman says STEM subjects should be integrated into kids' minds, despite being typically taught separately.

“Think about [adults], we don't read from 8 to 9... and then we do math from 9 to 10. We do everything all day long. That's the real world, right?" she said.

Simmerman says that's what our students need to know how to do. "Kids need to know how to be explorers, to be thinkers, to problem solve anything that comes at them, so that they're ready for what their career might be," she said.

She encourages parents to engage kids in conversation. "Get them away from simply memorizing facts — and get them critically thinking and problem-solving," she said.

Simmerman says one of the most important things that parents can do is indulge kids' real curiosities and get them outside, get them thinking and when they ask a question, respond with a question. She says to get them thinking about it. "Anything that you can do to engage their minds and get their minds moving is encouraged," she said. That way, Simmerman says, kids will be better off when day one of school hits, and "they're ready to be thinkers and problem solvers.”

She says to think of your students as having a backpack. In that backpack, they don’t have to have all of the answers for things life will throw at them. Instead, they have to have tools to help them solve what problems the real world brings. It builds resilience and perseverance. It makes kids into stronger adults. Lastly, Simmerman adds failing, at times, is OK. Simmerman says “FAIL” can be an acronym for “first attempt in learning.” She encourages parents to create an environment where kids can learn from mistakes so they can increase problem-solving.

Simmerman is involved in the IMFIS program, which helps students with their STEM studies. You can find more information about the program here.