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Holiday boredom, meet STEM

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By Heather Wilson, writer, Dell

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is becoming more and more important – and with good reason. These are necessary skills in today’s tech-savvy world, and they represent a pathway to some of the most in-demand and promising jobs.

But global education systems aren’t producing enough critical thinkers to keep up with the demand. This is according to many experts, including those from Girlstart in Texas and TERI in India – two non-profits aimed at harnessing the potential of STEM-related skills so young people may acquire what they need to compete in today’s global workforce.

Dell partners with Girlstart and TERI – and with 60 other non-profit organizations around the world – to help underserved young people access technology and education. Dell provides these partners with grant funding, its latest technology and Dell team members’ expertise.

Professionals at Girlstart and TERI agree that educators need the support of parents at home to help build a solid foundation of STEM education and to complement what kids are learning in school.

So how do parents do this?

While there are a lot of recommendations out there, we honed in on the advice Girlstart and TERI to take advantage of holiday breaks and to use the free STEM resources each organization offers online.

Lean on the free DeSTEMber resources from Girlstart to fuel winter break learning

Can you believe holiday breaks will soon mean your kids are at home for weeks at a time? Their favorite proclamation, “We’re bored!” will be repeated.

Girlstart’s DeSTEMber program can help you answer to the festive calls of boredom with 31 days of at-home, free activities to encourage (or spark) your child’s STEM-inspired state-of-mind.

DeSTEMber, available at www.destember.org, features 31 daily activities and experiments that can be done at home with common household items. Experiments include candy quality control, engineer your own zip line, make a model of your brain, scavenger hunts, and more. 

Tamara Hudgins, executive director of Girlstart, describes Fall and Winter breaks as a great opportunity for parents to expose their children to STEM related concepts, and support the learning that takes place in the classroom.

Founded in Austin, Texas, in 1997, Girlstart is the only community-based, informal STEM education nonprofit in the nation specifically dedicated to empowering and equipping girls in STEM through year-round STEM educational programming. That said, Hudgins notes the DeSTEMber program is aimed at boys and girls, ages 5 through 15 – and for every parent, especially those who don’t exactly love science and math.

“Parents often think they need to be proficient in STEM subjects to get their kids involved in activities that nurture that kind of thinking – and they’ll remember their own stress and struggles as a kid when it came to math and science. That’s understandable,” Hudgins says.  “Parents can let go of those fears. There are ways to make STEM learning at home easy and fun – and DeSTEMber is a great place to start.”

Get global. Tap into India’s online environmental awareness and STEM resource hub for youth, EduGreen

We’re all connected by shared global challenges – like climate change – and the power of knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math enables people to collaborate, take action and bring about desired change,” says Taru Mehta, a fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, India.

TERI, headquartered in New Delhi, India, has been tackling environmental issues for more than 35 years through innovative and sustainable solutions.

Mehta points to TERI’s EduGreen website for free resources for parents that make STEM-inspired environmental education fun – through games, poems, stories, ask-an-expert and more. Kids can explore topics including air pollution, energy, water and more to learn about the world. 

TERI believes young people offer powerful perspectives on environmental issues – and according to a New York Times report, India has an extraordinary amount of young people to engage. India’s large youth population could make it the biggest consumer market and the biggest labor force in the world. 

This highlights the value of TERI’s work to create a motivated force of students in India and beyond, who have the knowledge to understand environmental challenges and the STEM skills to drive positive change. In one TERI program, students conduct research on an environmental topic and put together their own films, which are then shared with other students to pass on the knowledge.

With the support of Dell Youth Learning grants over the past seven years, TERI’s IT-enabled Climate EduXchange initiative has improved learning about the environment in more than 400 schools across India and is still striving touch lives of many more 

“We find that if students are educated when young, they are more interested in becoming responsible citizens and encouraging environmental awareness in their community,” Mehta says.

These Dell Youth Learning partnerships are one way Dell is working to reach its 2020 Legacy of Good goal, to apply our expertise and technology in underserved communities to help 3 million youth directly and support 10 million people indirectly to grow and thrive by 2020. Since Dell began working toward this goal in FY14, the company has helped 1.4 million youth directly and 6.8 million people indirectly.

Dell is committed to using technology to improve the lives of young people. Learn more at dell.com/youthlearning 

 

A DeSTEMber activity to get your kids experimenting

Is it possible to balance six or more nails on the head of a single nail? 
In this activity, no glue, rubber bands, or welding is allowed. Have your kids try it on their own first, and then when they’ve thrown their hands up and called you crazy, use the instructions in the quick video here to unlock this physics mystery!

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