Last week, I attended the WeAreTechWomen Conference, and I hung out in one of the chat rooms about STEM. One dad reached out to me with this:
"I have a 6-year-old girl who I would love to get more into STEM, but she already sees technology as a ‘boy thing’ regardless of how much I’ve tried. Any ideas on how I can encourage her into STEM?"
This made me time travel 30 years back.
My dad also tried hard to get me into STEM, but I just didn't see the point. So, I could totally relate to his girl because I was the same.
There's a big reason why I use illustration and storytelling to teach kids about computers. These are two of the things that I loved the most when I was little. And when learning something new, the vehicle of communication is as important as the topic we're trying to teach, and it enables us to reach our kids.
And here, I want to be totally honest with you.
A Scratch course or a robotics class wouldn't have called my attention. Tell me we're building a game, and I'm out. These things might work perfectly for some kids, while for others, like myself, they’ll be a no-go from the start.
The medium we use to teach becomes an opportunity for connection.
Let's take the next title in the Zerus & Ona's series as an example. The book tells the story of how they first meet inside the computer and how they become friends. It's written in the form of a poem and a song that your kids can learn, sing, and dance along to.
This is how I picture it:
You start reading the book with your kid, and she gets to know Zerus and Ona, and you talk with her about 0s and 1s and how they live inside your computer. Then, you find out that the story is also a song and that it comes with some music. She learns it by heart and dances to it for a week.
Later on, you say, "Oh, I found out that they use code to play the music! Let's see how they do that!" You'll sit together and see some code snippets running and making sounds...
By that time, your kid is so into it that you end up learning some coding and playing the song together! You just sparked her curiosity for STEM.
Illustration from our upcoming book "Welcome to our World"
Learning to code is the last piece in that chain of events, and it just becomes one more tool to help your child express herself.
I have a passion for finding unexpected and surprising connections between technology and the world around us. And these are the conversations that I wish to see happening more and more between parents, teachers, and kids.
Technology is everywhere right now, and it's becoming easier every day to find examples that connect with your child's interests.
What does your child already love? Do you know anyone working in that field and using technology in their work? That's a good place to start!