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Parenting & Development: Let the STEAM rise for your children

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics and is a major buzzword in current educational and economic discourse.

Government and educational leaders from President Obama on down have committed to advancing STEAM educational and vocational programs. These 5 subjects are considered key drivers of innovation and economic prosperity.

The White House states “A world-class STEAM workforce is essential to virtually every goal we have as a nation, whether it’s broadly shared economic prosperity, international competitiveness, a strong national defense, a clean energy future, and longer, healthier lives for all Americans.”

Indeed, we know that the challenges the next generation faces will demand creative solutions. Creative solutions are born from a solid foundation in STEAM disciplines. Critical and creative thinking skills developed from a solid understanding across the 5 academic disciplines lie at the heart of a well-rounded education.

At the KidZone museum in Truckee where I work, early childhood experiences and exposure to STEAM happen every day.

Children play with magnetic tiles making patterns on the metal wall or building structures on the floor. At the air maze, one of our most popular exhibitions, kids and parents watch colorful fabric swatches fly through the air ducts, change direction of the air flow and figure out how to make it work, change it up and do it over again.

Every day in the art room there is a new project put out on the table for children and parents to explore.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of play, not only in early childhood development but over the course of the lives of young people from infancy to young adulthood.

Yes, there are certainly basics of math, science, even artistic techniques that students must understand and master each year. However, there is an equally important role of free time to play and explore that we are robbing our children of in the age of helicopter parenting where adults are always present, supervising, instructing and problem-solving for them.

Critical to the dialogue about STEAM in education is also the freedom to explore, problem-solve and innovate unencumbered by constantly supervised instruction.

Equally important to the academic mastery of the STEAM disciplines is free time to build upon a deeper understanding and skill mastery independently. Unstructured time cultivates a deeper understanding of one’s own abilities in relation to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

Any teacher will tell you that time in the classroom tightly scheduled. Often there is little time in the day to freely explore within each STEAM subject.

When your child has precious blocks of unstructured time at home be mindful that this is a great time to built on STEAM subjects. Toys like Legos or Magna tiles support engineering and art. Keep simple art supplies such as paper and colored pencils at the ready.

There are many simple math games you can play with a deck of cards together, from the perennial family classic GO Fish to Multiplication War with older kids.

Supporting STEAM development in our kids will not only make them more real-world ready but will also, through play within these subjects, further foster a lifetime of intellectual curiosity and a love of learning.

Holly Galbo is the mother of two beautiful little girls and lives in Incline Village. She is the manager of the KidZone Museum in Truckee. For information, visit kidzonemuseum.org or call 530-587- 5437.