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Category: Articles for Parents / Educators

The Benefits of a STEM Education

Benefits of Stem Education

In a job economy driven by rapidly changing technology, it’s more important than ever that our schools foster a love of learning. Starting our students on a steady dose of STEM curriculum in elementary primes them to become the inquisitive kiddos that lead to ambitious adults.

What does STEM stand for?

For anyone who’s seen the term STEM, but kept it on the periphery, here’s a bit of background. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Recently “arts” was added to the educational model, making STEAM an interchangeable term you might also hear.

In school, STEM or STEAM lessons are taught using an integrative approach that shows how each subject relates to and works with the others. This interdisciplinary instruction also closely mirrors how these concept applications function in the working world.

Educational Benefits of STEM

The sooner our students are exposed to STEM activities the better. During the elementary years, when their synapses are most impressionable, youngsters have an innate drive toward curiosity. STEAM programming prioritizes and encourages this curiosity, making lessons easier to internalize.

By making it accessible to anyone, STEM education benefits everyone in the classroom by:

  • Reducing lesson and testing anxiety. The principles of STEM diminish stress by putting the focus on the student’s ability to learn and grow, encouraging a belief in oneself.
  • Making it okay to fail. Our mistakes are powerful teachers. When the environment is safe and welcoming, students don’t fear punishment of failure and learn to view it as an opportunity to simply explore or try new things.
  • Prioritizing the 4 C’s. No matter their age, whatever their job title, they’re going to need to know how to interact well with others. STEAM helps develop the necessary 21st-century learning skills including creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
  • Helping them apply meaning. STEM curriculum is engaging and motivates students to think through real world-inspired scenarios. Taught in this way, the concepts make more sense and students are able to understand the value and purpose. This depth of knowledge also leads to a greater understanding of each pillar.

STEM Career Opportunities

According to the STEM Diversity at the University of Wisconsin Madison,“By 2018, it’s predicted that 8.65 million STEM jobs will exist. Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a drastic shortage of almost 600,000 potential candidates for those jobs.”

So job security is almost guaranteed, but pursuing a STEM career doesn’t necessarily mean students will automatically be chained to a MIT laboratory or relegated to Silicon Valley. STEM is everywhere, permeating just about every fathomable industry.

Contrary to some of the stereotypes, STEM-led disciplines include everything from product development for the fashion industry to Legoland Designer! (And what little boy wouldn’t leap out of his chair for that job?!)

In short, there’s no better way to equip students for their life journey than to turn them into lifelong learners. Once they master this skill, there’s no realm, be it higher education or the real world, which they can’t conquer.

 AUTHOR BIO:

Dave Monaco has worked in education for 24 years and counting. He has put his M.A.T. to great use as the Head of School at Parish Episcopal School and helps Parish live out their mission to guide young people to become creative learners and bold leaders who will impact our global society. With his philosophy to “engage the mind, connect to the heart,” this father of three will continue bringing order to chaos one day at a time.

In a job economy driven by rapidly changing technology, it’s more important than ever that our schools foster a love of learning. Starting our students on a steady dose of STEM curriculum in elementary primes them to become the inquisitive kiddos that lead to ambitious adults.

What does STEM stand for?

For anyone who’s seen the term STEM, but kept it on the periphery, here’s a bit of background. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Recently “arts” was added to the educational model, making STEAM an interchangeable term you might also hear.

In school, STEM or STEAM lessons are taught using an integrative approach that shows how each subject relates to and works with the others. This interdisciplinary instruction also closely mirrors how these concept applications function in the working world.

Educational Benefits of STEM

The sooner our students are exposed to STEM activities the better. During the elementary years, when their synapses are most impressionable, youngsters have an innate drive toward curiosity. STEAM programming prioritizes and encourages this curiosity, making lessons easier to internalize.

By making it accessible to anyone, STEM education benefits everyone in the classroom by:

  • Reducing lesson and testing anxiety. The principles of STEM diminish stress by putting the focus on the student’s ability to learn and grow, encouraging a belief in oneself.
  • Making it okay to fail. Our mistakes are powerful teachers. When the environment is safe and welcoming, students don’t fear punishment of failure and learn to view it as an opportunity to simply explore or try new things.
  • Prioritizing the 4 C’s. No matter their age, whatever their job title, they’re going to need to know how to interact well with others. STEAM helps develop the necessary 21st-century learning skills including creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
  • Helping them apply meaning. STEM curriculum is engaging and motivates students to think through real world-inspired scenarios. Taught in this way, the concepts make more sense and students are able to understand the value and purpose. This depth of knowledge also leads to a greater understanding of each pillar.

STEM Career Opportunities

According to the STEM Diversity at the University of Wisconsin Madison,“By 2018, it’s predicted that 8.65 million STEM jobs will exist. Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a drastic shortage of almost 600,000 potential candidates for those jobs.”

So job security is almost guaranteed, but pursuing a STEM career doesn’t necessarily mean students will automatically be chained to a MIT laboratory or relegated to Silicon Valley. STEM is everywhere, permeating just about every fathomable industry.

Contrary to some of the stereotypes, STEM-led disciplines include everything from product development for the fashion industry to Legoland Designer! (And what little boy wouldn’t leap out of his chair for that job?!)

In short, there’s no better way to equip students for their life journey than to turn them into lifelong learners. Once they master this skill, there’s no realm, be it higher education or the real world, which they can’t conquer.

 AUTHOR BIO:

Dave Monaco has worked in education for 24 years and counting. He has put his M.A.T. to great use as the Head of School at Parish Episcopal School and helps Parish live out their mission to guide young people to become creative learners and bold leaders who will impact our global society. With his philosophy to “engage the mind, connect to the heart,” this father of three will continue bringing order to chaos one day at a time.

Why Do Some Kids Love School?

School is pretty much a job that we give to kids.  Like the jobs we have as adults it is the place you must show up to every day, even when you don’t want to go.  The business of learning is work.  It involves mental focus and self-discipline.  That discipline is an important part of how school shapes kids.

The important knowledge and skills that classes such as math, science, history, languages, and English are critical to helping children become well-rounded, intelligent adults but the self-discipline it takes to show up every day, work with others and finish the assigned work might be the most important skill school can instill in us.

The work that kids must put into school and the social anxiety that can come from learning how to interact with other people every day should make it easy to understand why many kids struggle with school.  School can be an unpleasant experience for kids with learning disabilities, kids who have a conflict with teachers, kids who have social anxiety, kids who are bullied, and kids who struggle with the self-discipline you need to be a good student.  Some people simply don’t like school, and some even go as far as being scared to death of going to school (known as Didaskaleinophobia).

So, if school has the potential to be such an unpleasant experience, why do some kids love school so much?  We all went to school with some classmates who were full of enthusiasm and clearly enjoyed their classes.  What can we do to encourage any child to have a positive experience in school and have a huge smile on their face when they step foot into school?  It is possible to make school a place that even kids who were less than excited about going to school come to love.  We explore five ways to make sure kids love school.

1. Make learning interactive and creative.

Different kids have different learning styles.  Some kids can do well with traditional learning.  They can listen to a lecture, take notes, read textbooks and study, and earn good grades on quizzes and test.  That simply isn’t the case with many kids.  For them, learning needs to be an active, creative process.  They need to be presented with choices in how they will approach learning and they need to be up from their desks and engaged in learning activities.  Even students who do well with traditional teaching methods benefit from this approach.  An engaged student who is empowered to make choices is far more likely to love school.

2. Adults should be role models.

Kids look to adults to model how to behave.  Attitude is contagious!  Every day children are essentially at the mercy of adults.  They must listen to their parents, teachers, coaches, instructors, principals, guidance councilors and other adults.  It is important for kids to be taught respect for adults, but it is also import for adults who are parents or work with kids to remember how much their own attitude affect the kids they are in contact with every day.  If their teachers and the other adults at school enjoy being there then so will the kids.

3. Adults are not the only ones who need work/life balance.

When you become an adult, it can be easy to envy kids their freedom.  With the pressures of bills, work, and parenting it can seem like kids have it easy by comparison.  Today, kids are under a lot of pressure to make good grades, be involved in multiple extracurricular activities and deal with the social pressures of school, which have only become more intense thanks to social media.  In order for them to love school, they need help balancing their schedule.  It is important for them to figure out how to manage their schoolwork, extracurricular activities and free time without becoming overscheduled and stressed out.  With a healthy work/life balance, they will be able to love school.

4. Help kids identify their interests and strengths.

Part of growing up is figuring who you are, what your interests are and what direction you want your life to go in.  That is a tall order!  Kids need room to experiment with different classes and different extracurricular activities.  Some they may quickly give up on.  Others may radically shape who they become and what they do with their life.  Their parents, teachers and the other adults around them should support this process.

5. Foster an environment that is supportive of all kids.

There is a growing awareness of the effect that school bullying and the toxic morass of the online world has on children and their development.  It is crucial for schools to actively promote a school environment that encourages kids who are struggling socially and experiencing bullying to seek help.  It is also crucial for that help to be available.  Too often children who tried to get help were dismissed and bullying was seen as normal childhood behavior.  For kids to love school it needs to be a place they feel safe, respected and listened to.  It also needs to be a place they can develop healthy friendships that enrich their lives.

School is pretty much a job that we give to kids.  Like the jobs we have as adults it is the place you must show up to every day, even when you don’t want to go.  The business of learning is work.  It involves mental focus and self-discipline.  That discipline is an important part of how school shapes kids.

The important knowledge and skills that classes such as math, science, history, languages, and English are critical to helping children become well-rounded, intelligent adults but the self-discipline it takes to show up every day, work with others and finish the assigned work might be the most important skill school can instill in us.

The work that kids must put into school and the social anxiety that can come from learning how to interact with other people every day should make it easy to understand why many kids struggle with school.  School can be an unpleasant experience for kids with learning disabilities, kids who have a conflict with teachers, kids who have social anxiety, kids who are bullied, and kids who struggle with the self-discipline you need to be a good student.  Some people simply don’t like school, and some even go as far as being scared to death of going to school (known as Didaskaleinophobia).

So, if school has the potential to be such an unpleasant experience, why do some kids love school so much?  We all went to school with some classmates who were full of enthusiasm and clearly enjoyed their classes.  What can we do to encourage any child to have a positive experience in school and have a huge smile on their face when they step foot into school?  It is possible to make school a place that even kids who were less than excited about going to school come to love.  We explore five ways to make sure kids love school.

1. Make learning interactive and creative.

Different kids have different learning styles.  Some kids can do well with traditional learning.  They can listen to a lecture, take notes, read textbooks and study, and earn good grades on quizzes and test.  That simply isn’t the case with many kids.  For them, learning needs to be an active, creative process.  They need to be presented with choices in how they will approach learning and they need to be up from their desks and engaged in learning activities.  Even students who do well with traditional teaching methods benefit from this approach.  An engaged student who is empowered to make choices is far more likely to love school.

2. Adults should be role models.

Kids look to adults to model how to behave.  Attitude is contagious!  Every day children are essentially at the mercy of adults.  They must listen to their parents, teachers, coaches, instructors, principals, guidance councilors and other adults.  It is important for kids to be taught respect for adults, but it is also import for adults who are parents or work with kids to remember how much their own attitude affect the kids they are in contact with every day.  If their teachers and the other adults at school enjoy being there then so will the kids.

3. Adults are not the only ones who need work/life balance.

When you become an adult, it can be easy to envy kids their freedom.  With the pressures of bills, work, and parenting it can seem like kids have it easy by comparison.  Today, kids are under a lot of pressure to make good grades, be involved in multiple extracurricular activities and deal with the social pressures of school, which have only become more intense thanks to social media.  In order for them to love school, they need help balancing their schedule.  It is important for them to figure out how to manage their schoolwork, extracurricular activities and free time without becoming overscheduled and stressed out.  With a healthy work/life balance, they will be able to love school.

4. Help kids identify their interests and strengths.

Part of growing up is figuring who you are, what your interests are and what direction you want your life to go in.  That is a tall order!  Kids need room to experiment with different classes and different extracurricular activities.  Some they may quickly give up on.  Others may radically shape who they become and what they do with their life.  Their parents, teachers and the other adults around them should support this process.

5. Foster an environment that is supportive of all kids.

There is a growing awareness of the effect that school bullying and the toxic morass of the online world has on children and their development.  It is crucial for schools to actively promote a school environment that encourages kids who are struggling socially and experiencing bullying to seek help.  It is also crucial for that help to be available.  Too often children who tried to get help were dismissed and bullying was seen as normal childhood behavior.  For kids to love school it needs to be a place they feel safe, respected and listened to.  It also needs to be a place they can develop healthy friendships that enrich their lives.

Introducing Kids to Positive Role Models

positive role models for kids

Child development happens partly as traits emerge from within, but another big part comes with children learning from the adults in their lives. Role models convey values, acceptable types of interaction and behavior, and ways of living in the world to kids. Providing good role models for your kids is a key part in supporting their positive development.

How do you find role models for your child? You can be a good role model yourself, of course, but children benefit from the presence of additional adults they can look up to and seek advice from. Here are some resources for giving your kids positive role models.

Historical Figures

When you’re not yet sure what your kids’ interests are, start with well-known contemporary or historical figures to see who catches their attention. There are plenty of well-known men, both historical and in contemporary culture, for boys to look up to.

And when it comes to raising daughters, there are lots of positive role models we can point to both in present times and from history. Check out this curated video playlist of powerful women in history to share with your older kids.

For younger kids, even Matel has created dolls based on historic women. It really helps your cause to point to people who actually lived: their lives, their challenges, their triumphs, and their struggles. It might just be inspiring, and at the very least, it will be educational.

As your children express interest in particular well-known people, you can start looking around in your own community for in-person role models, too.

Community Members

Ask your kids what traits they admire in those famous figures and think about people in your life who embody those qualities. You can look for role models who have the types of careers your kids are curious about, but better than that, find people who display desirable traits like compassion, integrity, and motivation. Younger kids learn what kind of people they can be from their role models. When they’re older, it’s more suitable to help them connect with people in professions they may want to pursue.

Who do you know at your children’s school, at your workplace, at church, in your own social network, or in your family who might want to form a relationship with your kids? Think about who you admire; chances are the same qualities will make that individual a good role model for your kids.

Fictional Figures or Celebrities

Though there are some limits to fictional role models, your kids may at some point idolize a fictional figure, so better to prepare for it and send good options their way. Discuss with them what they like about their favorite characters and how they see themselves being similar or different.

When choosing media to watch with your sons, consider these shows with strong male role models. Trying to find books for your daughters that aren’t just about princesses or romance? Here is a helpful list sorted by age group (from preschool through teen years) of books with strong female characters.

Be prepared for your kids to come home one day wanting to be exactly like a celebrity they saw on YouTube. The most important thing in this situation is how you talk to them about these role models. Rather than discouraging them from their infatuation, ask them what they like about their new favorite person. Keep the conversation going by asking your kids what that celebrity is up to over time (and give yourself more opportunities to discuss poor decisions said person might make).

Yourself

You are the first and most potentially powerful role model for your kids. Your children are watching and learning from you before they can even speak—and your actions will convey more than your words. You can’t do everything perfectly, but there’s a lot you can do to show them what kind of person you hope they’ll become by being that person yourself. For instance, one tip  is to take good care of yourself, which will help you better care for your kids while demonstrating the value of self-care.

General advice is great, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to convey positive traits in day-to-day life. For instance, how do you teach your kids about healthy eating without simply telling them what to do? Try to include them in the food shopping and give them choices about what they want to eat.

Once you start exploring, you can find positive role models for your kids in all kinds of social circles and fields. A good mix of people—historical figures, community members, and fictional characters—gives your kids plenty of opportunities to identify different facets of being human they want to emulate and can provide you with ample material for discussion.

by Hilary Thompson

Child development happens partly as traits emerge from within, but another big part comes with children learning from the adults in their lives. Role models convey values, acceptable types of interaction and behavior, and ways of living in the world to kids. Providing good role models for your kids is a key part in supporting their positive development.

How do you find role models for your child? You can be a good role model yourself, of course, but children benefit from the presence of additional adults they can look up to and seek advice from. Here are some resources for giving your kids positive role models.

Historical Figures

When you’re not yet sure what your kids’ interests are, start with well-known contemporary or historical figures to see who catches their attention. There are plenty of well-known men, both historical and in contemporary culture, for boys to look up to.

And when it comes to raising daughters, there are lots of positive role models we can point to both in present times and from history. Check out this curated video playlist of powerful women in history to share with your older kids.

For younger kids, even Matel has created dolls based on historic women. It really helps your cause to point to people who actually lived: their lives, their challenges, their triumphs, and their struggles. It might just be inspiring, and at the very least, it will be educational.

As your children express interest in particular well-known people, you can start looking around in your own community for in-person role models, too.

Community Members

Ask your kids what traits they admire in those famous figures and think about people in your life who embody those qualities. You can look for role models who have the types of careers your kids are curious about, but better than that, find people who display desirable traits like compassion, integrity, and motivation. Younger kids learn what kind of people they can be from their role models. When they’re older, it’s more suitable to help them connect with people in professions they may want to pursue.

Who do you know at your children’s school, at your workplace, at church, in your own social network, or in your family who might want to form a relationship with your kids? Think about who you admire; chances are the same qualities will make that individual a good role model for your kids.

Fictional Figures or Celebrities

Though there are some limits to fictional role models, your kids may at some point idolize a fictional figure, so better to prepare for it and send good options their way. Discuss with them what they like about their favorite characters and how they see themselves being similar or different.

When choosing media to watch with your sons, consider these shows with strong male role models. Trying to find books for your daughters that aren’t just about princesses or romance? Here is a helpful list sorted by age group (from preschool through teen years) of books with strong female characters.

Be prepared for your kids to come home one day wanting to be exactly like a celebrity they saw on YouTube. The most important thing in this situation is how you talk to them about these role models. Rather than discouraging them from their infatuation, ask them what they like about their new favorite person. Keep the conversation going by asking your kids what that celebrity is up to over time (and give yourself more opportunities to discuss poor decisions said person might make).

Yourself

You are the first and most potentially powerful role model for your kids. Your children are watching and learning from you before they can even speak—and your actions will convey more than your words. You can’t do everything perfectly, but there’s a lot you can do to show them what kind of person you hope they’ll become by being that person yourself. For instance, one tip  is to take good care of yourself, which will help you better care for your kids while demonstrating the value of self-care.

General advice is great, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to convey positive traits in day-to-day life. For instance, how do you teach your kids about healthy eating without simply telling them what to do? Try to include them in the food shopping and give them choices about what they want to eat.

Once you start exploring, you can find positive role models for your kids in all kinds of social circles and fields. A good mix of people—historical figures, community members, and fictional characters—gives your kids plenty of opportunities to identify different facets of being human they want to emulate and can provide you with ample material for discussion.

by Hilary Thompson

5 Fun Online Activities That Give Kids a Confidence Boost

How to Build Confidence in Kids

Is your child a little shy? Do they suffer from a lack of self-esteem? It’s a difficult time to be a child. With so many distractions, it can be easy to put personal relationships on the back burner.  Children can dive down a black hole into the internet void, spend countless hours completing video game campaigns, and plug into the virtual world.

While they’re doing this, they can tune out others and lose grasp of meaningful relationships. Once these relationships disappear, the impact can translate into other realms of your child’s life. They may lose the confidence to talk freely and openly to others or second guess their ability to do well in other aspects of their life such as schoolwork. 

Sometimes the internet, a place designed to connect individuals across the globe, can feel daunting and dividing. When this transposes itself into ordinary life, it can become a problem and a burden. That is why I put together a list of online activities that stray from the gloom and doom and promote healthy habits and elevate self-esteem. 

Afterschool Gaming Clubs

Does your child’s school offer after school programming? If they do, odds are that they may have a program specific to online gaming or video game creation. If not, then try checking out local community centers. If all else fails, these resources will help you create your own after school program. 

These types of clubs are becoming more and more prevalent and can create a sense of community with your child. Not all kids are into sports or art. These clubs are the perfect option for the video game obsessed youth and can offer more than just a community of fellow gamers. Some clubs dive into video game creation and actually allow the students to create their own games, teaching meaningful skills while enjoying games with peers. This sense of community can be extremely important for boosting the learning and the self-esteem of your child. 

Educational Games 

Online educational games are not only fun, but they can provide your child with the confidence necessary to speak up in class. Kids are much more likely to raise their hand and participate when they have background knowledge on the topic. These educational games are the perfect way to get something out of time spent online.

There are tons of online educators out there. It is only a matter of knowing where to search to find the organizations that have put together games meant to further learning. Learn how to refine your search to find highly reputable site to try out, such as found on this online educational games.

Kid-Friendly Social Media Sites

Social media is a scary place, even for adults. But, there are platforms out there specifically for kids. At first you may think that this sounds like a terrible idea and an easy way for strangers to interact with your child. But, these sites take safety seriously. Unlike the Myspace and Facebook’s of the world, these sites are focused on safety and provide a great introduction to social media for kids of various ages.

Most of these sites allow parents to control their child’s overall usage and monitor their accounts. This means that your child can enjoy the interaction with peers, while you assure they don’t go overboard with it. Some sites are extremely basic and only offer the simplest of features, while some are in-depth and showcase some top-notch safety features, such as required background checks. It may be best to monitor your child’s presence on these sites at first, but eventually these social media sites should provide your child with communication skills that will transfer to the real world. 

Geocaching

Have you heard of geocaching? This is a great activity for young kids to do with the rest of the family or a wholesome activity for older kids to take part in with friends. Not only does this activity get you outside, but through their easy to use app you join an online community of treasure hunters.

So, what is geocaching? Geocaching utilizes GPS coordinates to show the locations of various geocaches (containers/treasure chests). Individuals then navigate to the geocache and find hidden goods. There are several different categories of geocaches that keep the search interesting every time. You can solve a puzzle to discover coordinates or find geocaches specific to major landmarks. This interactive community allows you to utilize your online skills to navigate the real world. 

While it is great for children to be outside exploring, it can also be very stressful for a parent. If you have older children and want to keep track of their whereabouts while they’re out and about exploring, then I suggest investing in a GPS-based tracker to ease your worries. 

iNaturalist

This is an environmentally-focused parent’s best friend. Not only does this app (also web-based) offer the opportunity to learn about different species, but similar to geocaching, it also gets kids outside. Look out for something called a “bioblitz” in your area. The National Park System, as well as numerous State Park Systems and non-profits hold these events to gather as many observations as possible in a specific period of time. For instance, while I worked for Tennessee State Parks, we developed a statewide bioblitz and created a variety of family-friendly programming around the event. This can be a great way to get out with the family and explore an area otherwise not accessible. 

The feeling of discovery can be a tremendous joy for children and adults alike. By discovering different plant and animal species, children learn about the natural world and increase their observational skills. This can translate directly to social and academic situations. According to childrensmuseums.org, “The informal understanding children gain through experimentation, observation, and comparison in play lays the foundation for higher-order thinking and later learning of formal STEM concepts”. For more information on iNaturalist and how it can benefit your child’s learning check out their site

Conclusion

Regardless of which avenue you and your child take, the most important thing for improving self-esteem is the feeling of inclusion. These activities provide a community for your child to become a part of and share experiences. Those experiences will help define your child as an individual and grant them an identity to believe in. Hopefully, after discovering themselves and learning to believe in their abilities, your children will transfer this new, increased self-esteem into every aspect of their lives. So, get them involved and start building those memories.

Author Bio: Chandler Clayton is a freelance writer, specializing in education and safety. He draws upon his years of teaching environmental education to empower learning in children and adults of all backgrounds. He has been featured on sites such as SafeWise, USA Today, and Newsday.

Is your child a little shy? Do they suffer from a lack of self-esteem? It’s a difficult time to be a child. With so many distractions, it can be easy to put personal relationships on the back burner.  Children can dive down a black hole into the internet void, spend countless hours completing video game campaigns, and plug into the virtual world.

While they’re doing this, they can tune out others and lose grasp of meaningful relationships. Once these relationships disappear, the impact can translate into other realms of your child’s life. They may lose the confidence to talk freely and openly to others or second guess their ability to do well in other aspects of their life such as schoolwork. 

Sometimes the internet, a place designed to connect individuals across the globe, can feel daunting and dividing. When this transposes itself into ordinary life, it can become a problem and a burden. That is why I put together a list of online activities that stray from the gloom and doom and promote healthy habits and elevate self-esteem. 

Afterschool Gaming Clubs

Does your child’s school offer after school programming? If they do, odds are that they may have a program specific to online gaming or video game creation. If not, then try checking out local community centers. If all else fails, these resources will help you create your own after school program. 

These types of clubs are becoming more and more prevalent and can create a sense of community with your child. Not all kids are into sports or art. These clubs are the perfect option for the video game obsessed youth and can offer more than just a community of fellow gamers. Some clubs dive into video game creation and actually allow the students to create their own games, teaching meaningful skills while enjoying games with peers. This sense of community can be extremely important for boosting the learning and the self-esteem of your child. 

Educational Games 

Online educational games are not only fun, but they can provide your child with the confidence necessary to speak up in class. Kids are much more likely to raise their hand and participate when they have background knowledge on the topic. These educational games are the perfect way to get something out of time spent online.

There are tons of online educators out there. It is only a matter of knowing where to search to find the organizations that have put together games meant to further learning. Learn how to refine your search to find highly reputable site to try out, such as found on this online educational games.

Kid-Friendly Social Media Sites

Social media is a scary place, even for adults. But, there are platforms out there specifically for kids. At first you may think that this sounds like a terrible idea and an easy way for strangers to interact with your child. But, these sites take safety seriously. Unlike the Myspace and Facebook’s of the world, these sites are focused on safety and provide a great introduction to social media for kids of various ages.

Most of these sites allow parents to control their child’s overall usage and monitor their accounts. This means that your child can enjoy the interaction with peers, while you assure they don’t go overboard with it. Some sites are extremely basic and only offer the simplest of features, while some are in-depth and showcase some top-notch safety features, such as required background checks. It may be best to monitor your child’s presence on these sites at first, but eventually these social media sites should provide your child with communication skills that will transfer to the real world. 

Geocaching

Have you heard of geocaching? This is a great activity for young kids to do with the rest of the family or a wholesome activity for older kids to take part in with friends. Not only does this activity get you outside, but through their easy to use app you join an online community of treasure hunters.

So, what is geocaching? Geocaching utilizes GPS coordinates to show the locations of various geocaches (containers/treasure chests). Individuals then navigate to the geocache and find hidden goods. There are several different categories of geocaches that keep the search interesting every time. You can solve a puzzle to discover coordinates or find geocaches specific to major landmarks. This interactive community allows you to utilize your online skills to navigate the real world. 

While it is great for children to be outside exploring, it can also be very stressful for a parent. If you have older children and want to keep track of their whereabouts while they’re out and about exploring, then I suggest investing in a GPS-based tracker to ease your worries. 

iNaturalist

This is an environmentally-focused parent’s best friend. Not only does this app (also web-based) offer the opportunity to learn about different species, but similar to geocaching, it also gets kids outside. Look out for something called a “bioblitz” in your area. The National Park System, as well as numerous State Park Systems and non-profits hold these events to gather as many observations as possible in a specific period of time. For instance, while I worked for Tennessee State Parks, we developed a statewide bioblitz and created a variety of family-friendly programming around the event. This can be a great way to get out with the family and explore an area otherwise not accessible. 

The feeling of discovery can be a tremendous joy for children and adults alike. By discovering different plant and animal species, children learn about the natural world and increase their observational skills. This can translate directly to social and academic situations. According to childrensmuseums.org, “The informal understanding children gain through experimentation, observation, and comparison in play lays the foundation for higher-order thinking and later learning of formal STEM concepts”. For more information on iNaturalist and how it can benefit your child’s learning check out their site

Conclusion

Regardless of which avenue you and your child take, the most important thing for improving self-esteem is the feeling of inclusion. These activities provide a community for your child to become a part of and share experiences. Those experiences will help define your child as an individual and grant them an identity to believe in. Hopefully, after discovering themselves and learning to believe in their abilities, your children will transfer this new, increased self-esteem into every aspect of their lives. So, get them involved and start building those memories.

Author Bio: Chandler Clayton is a freelance writer, specializing in education and safety. He draws upon his years of teaching environmental education to empower learning in children and adults of all backgrounds. He has been featured on sites such as SafeWise, USA Today, and Newsday.