Having access to STEM education is so important, but it’s not just a matter of having a couple STEM kits and activities. All the way through elementary school and middle school, students need access to full STEM programming curriculum in order to truly build STEM identity and technology fluency. That’s why Kid Spark Education is designed to not only provide STEM kits, but a full program focused on giving students progressive education that builds every single year.
By providing these STEM programs, we help students develop the courage to imagine a better world and the skills to create it. With Kid Spark STEM Programs students learn to see like designers and think like engineers. They grow up ready to succeed in a tech-driven twenty-first century — and ready to change their world and ours.
Of course, for educators and administrators exploring STEM program solutions, we know it’s important to really investigate which programs provide the most value. With that in mind, we wanted to create an overview of how full STEM programs as opposed to standalone STEM labs truly help students and educators. Read our full guide to find out some key benefits of STEM programs like Kid Spark Education:
1. Allows Students to Explore Real-World Challenges
STEM programs that are truly interdisciplinary allow students to use STEM concepts to think about real world problems and systems in which the world operates. This not only makes STEM concepts more accessible, but aids in child development. As Sarah York, Rea Lavi, Yehudit Judy Dori, and MaryKay Orgill explain in the Journal of Chemical Education, the systems thinking children do in STEM education is, “a holistic approach for examining complex problems and systems that focuses on the interactions among system components and the patterns that emerge from those interactions. Systems thinking can help students develop higher-order thinking skills in order to understand and address complex, interdisciplinary, real-world problems.”
In our elementary school program in particular, Kid Spark Education helps students gain confidence in their ability to author with technology to solve real-world problems and design new solutions. From exploring robotics and coding to working on engineering and design tasks— students are able to see how STEM makes up the world they live in and how these problem solving skills can create real change. Whether students end up in STEM careers or not, creating these opportunities for problem solving will serve students for years to come.
2. Encourages Convergent and Divergent Thinking
Because every student learns differently and at a different pace, a full STEM program can help meet every student where they are with convergent and divergent learning. At Kid Spark education, this is built into our program to help support teachers and students. In the program, we start with convergent learning with instructors explaining and talking through the STEM concepts that the STEM curriculum will be covering. Then, we utilize divergent learning, when students break out into groups going hands-on with testing out solutions to problems based on their own ideas.
Being able to do this divergent learning is key for truly engaging students. In GoGuardian’s 2021-2022 State of Engagement Report, after surveying thousands of educators from all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, researchers found “that teachers value learning experiences that address the whole child creatively, cognitively, and emotionally”. In fact, they found not only that encouraging creativity was important, but that “practicing Hands-On Learning consistently emerged as one of the top practices for impacting engagement, with an average score of 4.27 and 83% of teachers reporting that it had a large to very large impact on their students’ levels of engagement”. By utilizing a program with divergent learning as well as convergent learning, you can be sure to engage students in a brand new way.
With both types of learning approaches, you can make sure you can reinforce the educational concepts for every type of learner. By learning both of these ways and working with learners that learn different ways, students will come out with a stronger understanding on how they can use STEM throughout their lives.
3. Empowering STEM Mentors Helps Students
More than anything else, teachers need a STEM program that can empower them to truly mentor their students. Teachers who serve as STEM mentors ensure that students stay at their learning edge, the zone where skills and fluency may be just shy of what’s required to accomplish the task at hand. A STEM mentor’s encouragement can mean the difference between a child giving up on STEM and excelling in STEM. That’s why mentors need to have the tools they need, like professional development and comprehensive curriculum guides.
As Stohlmann, Moore, and Roehrig find in their study on integrated STEM education in the Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research,
“The preparation and support of teachers of integrated STEM education is essential for achieving these goals. Future research can focus on the development of curricula materials and instructional models for STEM integration, connections between teacher education programs for integration and teachers’ subsequent classroom teaching practices, and also ways in which teachers view STEM integration”
At Kid Spark Education we provide that needed support with robust curriculum resources for teachers to use to teach their students. Our programs are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), International Society for Technology in Education Standards (ISTE), Computer Science Teachers Association Standards (CSTA), and Common Core (CC), so teachers can hit educational outcomes while preparing their students for the modern world. On the curriculum page on our website, registered teachers can take a look at the curriculum and how to effectively use our kits to inspire a lifelong love of STEM.
4. Helps Close the Opportunity Gap
Over the years, there have been so many students that have not had the opportunity to learn to love STEM and truly grow in the field. At Kid Spark education, we’re committed to closing the opportunity gap for children who have been traditionally underserved or underrepresented based on race, gender, and economic or geographic disadvantage. By giving students of all backgrounds and abilities an equal chance to learn and love STEM, we are nurturing a next generation of successful professionals, bold thinkers, and passionate leaders.
Even though there have been strides of more people in scientific and technology driven careers in the last few years, there is still plenty of room to grow. According to Pew Research, “Black and Hispanic adults are less likely to earn degrees in STEM than other degree fields, and they continue to make up a lower share of STEM graduates relative to their share of the adult population. And while women now earn a majority of all undergraduate and advanced degrees, they remain a small share of degree earners in fields like engineering and computer science – areas where they are significantly underrepresented in the work force.”
By introducing STEM early on and allowing students to solve real-world programs, we hope to help bridge that opportunity gap. Kid Spark learners are more likely to choose professional careers, regardless of gender, race, or economic background. They gain the skills and confidence to design new solutions for real-world problems in any career they choose. Inequities in STEM opportunities for marginalized students have cut off generation after generation of talent, ingenuity, and imagination. We’re re-building a pipeline of talent and innovation. With full STEM programs, the next generation will be ready, able, and eager to change our world.
Ready to Add STEM Kits at Your School?
Of course, this is just a quick overview of the value of a full STEM program like Kid Spark Education. If you’re interested in learning more about adding Kid Spark Education programs at your school, we’d be happy to talk to you about this further.
With programs from Pre-K to elementary school, to middle school, we can provide progressive STEM education to grow a love of learning and fluency in STEM concepts. Learn all about our Elementary and Middle School STEM programming here. If you would like to bring Kid Spark Education to your classroom, purchase programs here.