A couple weeks ago, we were invited to attend the Summer of Space premiere at the Ontario Science Centre. Akshaya and Udayan have been space enthusiasts for years so this event, where they got to watch Apollo 11: The First Steps and listen to a panel consisting of Canada’s first female astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar, Neil Armstrong’s son Mark Armstrong, Canadian astronaut candidate, Dr. Shawna Pandya, and rocket scientist Natalie Panek was really exciting for them! It was so inspiring to meet and hear from three amazing women in the field of space, especially one that looked like us because representation matters immensely for children of colour like mine. We also had the opportunity to check out two new exhibits: “Astronaut” and “Women in Space” which will be available to the public from May 18 – September 2 as Canada celebrates its contribution to space and the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing.
Listening to the panelists speak about their education, careers, and the all the possible careers potentially available at NASA, really got me thinking about how important it is to encourage STEM (or as Dr. Roberta Bondar calls it STEAM) focused learning in children, especially in children who already show an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Science and math is all around us and technology is advancing at an alarming rate, taking over all aspects of life. Engineering now applies to more than building bridges, roads, and buildings; engineers are also working on combatting climate change and creating eco-friendly solutions for the home. It is quite clear that most of the jobs available in the future will require basic understanding of one of more of the STEM subjects. Yet, statistics show that public school students are falling behind in STEM subjects, especially in that of Math.
STEM education is vital for students in sparking the much-needed interest in these otherwise deemed “difficult” subjects. Once interest is established through fun, interesting, hands-on approaches, a child may very well consider a future career in STEM. STEM focused education is about more than just learning science, technology, engineering and math; it produces critical thinkers and innovators who will go on to create products that will ultimately sustain the economy. That is precisely why it is essential as parents to expose our children to STEM-related activities and perhaps even extra-curricular STEM programs outside of school.
One such program is the STEM summer camp two-week sessions, offered by Step Up Academy of Learning, in which Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is integrated into real world topics to show students the relevance of these subjects to every day life. The camp, led by Ontario-certified teachers, gives students a chance to pursue a passion project of their choosing or a project in which they will aim to tackle a problem faced by a community or the world in general. Simultaneously, students will learn effective research, note-taking, and presentation skills. Students will also be introduced to leadership and teamwork skills, as well as the necessary communication skills needed for collaborative work. In addition to the above mentioned, summer camp participants will be educated on the various types of engineers and how to think like one through fun, hands-on activities and the building of their passion project prototype. Perhaps the best part of Step Up STEM camp is the final day, where students will be given the opportunity to participate in a centre-wide STEM fair, where each child will present his/her project and have the chance to win awards from esteemed guests.
It is initiatives like this one, that will aid children in choosing STEM careers. The need for STEM careers is on the rise and is even projected to outgrow the need for non-STEM careers, as mentioned during the Summer in Space event. Equipped with this knowledge, as parents we should be working to give our children a head start, at least until the public school system catches up, so that our children can benefit from the vast array of opportunities that await them in the future.
To learn more about Step Up Academy’s STEM camp or enroll your child in camp, click here. Make sure to keep an eye out on my Instagram feed for a giveaway in partnership with Step Up Academy as well as details on an upcoming STEM design competition for children.
Below are some of my favourite photographs from the Ontario Science Centre’s Summer of Space event.