My husband and I are polar opposites in almost every way imaginable. While opposites definitely attract in our case, we got together in the first place because of one of the few things we share in common: a passion for learning.
We both agree that were we to win the lottery (challenging considering we don’t buy tickets, I realize), one of the things we’d most want to do is go to school to master a whole new subject matter or two. Given the luxury of time and unlimited resources, my husband would definitely want to study engineering, and I really just want to be good at math again like I was in Grade 12. (I aced my provincial exam and promptly began an Arts degree and developed a math phobia.)
We are striving to raise our children to share our love of learning and be intrinsically motivated to pursue their education. Our new mini library of STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—titles from DK Books is keeping our son engaged and excited about topics ranging from coding to bacteria as he and his Papa read together every night before bed.
The best way to get your kids interested in learning is to share your own curiosity with them. While geared for children, all of our DK titles have taught my husband and me a ton of things we didn’t know (or had long since forgotten).
Our favourite title so far is The Bacteria Book. This book has been revolutionary for my son—proof of the power of knowledge! For as long as I can remember, this kid has refused to take off his socks. Even in bed, he absolutely had to have socks on, even if it was ridiculously hot in his room. When he got to the page in The Bacteria Book about fungus and learned that they thrive in warm, humid places, he resolved to always sleep without socks.
He even goes barefoot around the house until it’s time to go out (like his mother, he doesn’t like to be sockless in his sneakers). He now makes it a point of pride to encourage people to remove their socks and avoid fungi.
I’ve heard that if we want our kids to be successful in their careers, they need to learn to code. This is definitely not something my husband nor I are equipped to teach them. In fact, considering how much my personal livelihood relies on computers, I understand shockingly little about coding. I’m actually pretty jealous that I’m on twin bedtime duty while Papa and Cub are reading Find Out! Coding together.
One of the things Cub has learned from this book is that the first computer programmer was a woman, Ada Lovelace. Considering that “women … are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) fields” according to Statistics Canada and pretty much any lay(wo)man you ask, it’s important to me that my kids know that women can and do excel in these domains and that often their historical contributions are overlooked.
Find Out! Coding also inspired Cub’s Papa to use a coding technique used by the ancient Greeks as a clue in a treasure hunt he concocted. A “scytale” is a way of scrambling a message so that it can only be unscrambled if the recipient has the exact same sized cylinder (in our case a marker) that was used to create it. As soon as Cub saw the rolled paper and the cylinder, he knew what to do to decode the message!
Ask my husband his greatest regret in life, and it might just be that he didn’t become an engineer. He seriously considered going back to school for engineering, but with our first baby on the way it was simply not realistic. His not-so-secret dream is that one of our children will study engineering … and How to Be an Engineer is helping him get the ball rolling early! His current rallying cry for our son whenever they undertake an activity is, “And what to engineers do?” (Response: “They plan ahead!”)
They’ve already completed two engineering-related experiments from the book. They built a gumdrop tower (in our case, Swedish Berries because they’re more thoroughly enjoyed afterwards) to test whether a structure built of squares or of triangles would bear more weight:
And they used milk and vinegar to make plastic:
We’re not even halfway through the book yet, and I have to admit that I never considered how vast and impactful the field of engineering truly is!
We’ve got two more books on our “to read” list, and I’m sure we’ll enjoy them just as much. How to Be Good at Math will hopefully help ease my own anxieties about helping my kids with math homework. (Mind you, that math homework is going to be in French, so that’s a whole other kettle of poisson for me to deal with.) Then, Find Out! Energy will hopefully answer all the questions Cub has about lightning and perhaps inspire him to remember to turn off the light when he leaves a room!
If you’ve got a budding STEM-lover at home, or you’d like to grow one (see what I did there?!), then check the STEM-tastic Summer Reads DK Books has to offer!
Which STEM subject area do you wish you knew more about?