Parent Guide

Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. That’s the acronym, but STEM education is about much more than this collection of subjects. STEM education is a comprehensive approach that encourages critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and collaboration. In other words, STEM learning can spark curiosity and a love for figuring things out, which gives your child the tools they’ll need to rock whichever career path they choose.

Use this guide to help you help your child navigate STEM learning options in our region and get prepared for careers of the future.

What is STEM and why does it matter?

What is STEM, exactly?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But STEM education is far more than just sticking those subject titles together. It’s a philosophy of education that embraces teaching skills and subjects in an a way that resembles real life. With STEM, we are teaching skills the way they will be used in the workforce, and the real world. STEM skills include learning how to solve problems, be creative and innovative, think logically and work together.

Why does STEM education matter?

In the years ahead, STEM fields are projected to grow about twice as fast as others, with many of these careers commanding high pay. Jobs within STEM industries cover a huge range—some requiring traditional four-year degrees and others industry certifications or community college programs.

STEM skills have become increasingly essential for just about every industry, including Kansas City’s engineering, architecture, technology, biomedical and health care organizations.

At its core, STEM is about solving real-world problems. Mastering basic STEM skills helps students thrive in today’s world no matter which career path they pursue. STEM can help young people:

  • Get comfortable with technology.
  • Build creativity.
  • Develop perseverance.
  • Gain confidence.
  • Inspire innovation and new ways of doing things.
  • Grow their Essential Skills including communication and teamwork.

Why should parents or caregivers be involved?

Your encouragement makes a BIG difference

Did you know you have a superpower when it comes to influencing your child’s interests and how they feel about learning? Research shows parents and caregivers have the most influence on a child’s interests and abilities in STEM, no matter what your own educational background is. According to the National Science Teaching Association, children whose parents/caregivers are involved and engaged are more confident, do better in math and are more likely to choose and stay in STEM careers.

It’s never too early to start introducing your child to STEM, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Tap into their natural curiosity to help them see all the science and math they encounter with commonplace experiences, from playing in the park to helping out in the kitchen.

How to foster a positive STEM mindset

A STEM mindset is a way of thinking and approaching the world. It’s about curiosity, problem-solving and a willingness to explore the unknown. With a STEM mindset, your child can become a confident explorer of the natural and technological wonders that surround them. Here are some ways you can help your child develop a positive STEM identity:

Be Curious Together: Explore the world around you with your child. Ask questions, investigate, and learn together. Show them that curiosity is a lifelong adventure.

Encourage Exploration: Provide access to STEM-related books, toys, and activities. Let your child explore their interests, whether it’s building robots, conducting experiments or stargazing.

Celebrate Mistakes: Teach your child that mistakes are part of the learning process. Embrace failures as opportunities for growth and innovation.

Real-World Applications: Show them how STEM is a part of everyday life. Cook together to explore chemistry, fix things to understand engineering, or explore nature to learn about biology.

Supportive Environment: Create a safe space where your child feels comfortable asking questions and seeking answers. Let them know you’re there to support their learning journey. Demonstrate this by showing how to answer questions with internet research, a visit to the library or by asking someone you know.

Demystify the Terminology: Don’t let stereotypes and acronyms dissuade your child’s interests! Explain the simple definition (science, technology, engineering, math) and share examples of ways they already use STEM in their daily lives. Talk about the ways STEM helps address big issues like clean water, transportation and healthcare.

Role Models: Introduce your child to STEM role models who inspire them. Highlight diverse figures in STEM who prove that anyone can make a meaningful contribution.

Finding STEM experiences in and out of school

STEM learning during school

Many school districts in the Kansas City region integrate Project Lead The Way, a nationally renowned project-based STEM curriculum, beginning in elementary school. (The KC STEM Alliance supports PLTW in the region through teacher professional development and student competitions at the high school level). If you’re not sure whether this is offered, ask your child’s teacher, counselor or administrator.

Learn about which STEM pathways and courses are available early on so you can be familiar with any special considerations as your child begins mapping out courses for high school. Attend open houses at your district’s Career & Technical Education center. Get familiar with math and science prerequisites if your child wants to pursue a four-year STEM degree.

Encourage your child to stretch (but not break!) by taking the rigorous path, making room for advanced placement or dual credit courses that fit their strengths and interests.

Learning by Doing

Real World Learning experiences from job shadows and internships to client-connected projects can help your student gain new perspectives.

School-based STEM clubs and activities

Diving into STEM in an after-school setting with others the same age in an informal setting is a great way for students to build STEM skills and confidence while exploring potential career paths. Find out what’s available in your district.

Explore STEM outside of school

From Girl Scouts to makerspaces to drone racing and beyond, Kansas City has a number of STEM learning experiences and programs for children of all ages. Resources to help you connect: