The technology sector in the United Kingdom is booming. Investment in the industry is the highest in Europe, attracting £28bn in technology investment since 2011.
As the digital industries continue to grow, new jobs are being created at an unprecedented rate. However, high-level STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) occupations are almost twice as likely to be left unfilled due to a lack of staff with the right skills.
The number of physicists currently graduating each year across the UK is around 3,000. Only 15,000 UK students sat a computing or ICT A-Level this summer – accounting for less than 2pc of the overall exams sat. We need to do more to create skilled workers to meet demand.
Introducing STEM subjects at an early age is vital to address the skills shortage and future-proof our growing technology industries.
The summer holidays are the ideal chance to find creative ways of exploring STEM subjects with your child. A relaxed approach, kinder weather and a fun environment can open your child’s mind to concepts they have struggled with in the classroom.
Encouraging your child to engage with these subjects in a fun and engaging way can lay the foundations for success in STEM subjects later in life.
Step outside and you are surrounded by science, engineering and mathematics in practice. From tadpoles in the pond to market stalls selling ice creams, there’s plenty to draw inspiration from.
As a parent, you play a vital role in continuing your child’s learning over the summer and building on existing skills ready for the new term in September. It’s fun too!
Exploring nature together
The natural world inspires creativity and provides endless opportunities for active play. Transform a walk into a nature trail by magnifying specimens and identifying plants and trees. Collect flowers and press them at home to explore the finer details.
The life-cycles of different animals, pond life and creepy-crawlies are all engaging topics of discussion. Talk about the importance of bees and how pollination plays a vital role in food production. You could plant nectar and pollen rich plants from the RHS Perfect for Pollinators lists in your garden together.
Start a journal about the creatures you encounter. Draw them, write down their features and discuss their place in the wider ecosystem.
Explore the night sky with a telescope and search for stars and galaxies. During and after experiences like these, encourage discussion and use of descriptive language to help build on your child’s speech and language skills.
If you don’t have a telescope, stargazing can still be fun. All you need is a back garden or park, a sense of wonder, and perhaps a cup of hot chocolate. A quick internet search of upcoming astronomy events can tell you when a meteor shower or eclipse is due.
A stunning celestial event that takes place during the summer holidays is the Perseids meteor shower. Produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862, it produces up to 60 bright meteors per hour at its peak!
The shower runs annually and usually takes place between July 17 to August 24. In 2017 the shower peaks on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13.
You might look up when the International Space Station is passing overhead. You can check when by visiting @twisst on Twitter. Take the time to explain what the moving light is; a home in space to people from around the world!
Technology for tikes
Embrace technology that supports your child’s learning. Technology and computing are playing an increasingly prominent role in the national curriculum across all Key Stages.
Continue the astronomy theme while developing their digital skills by using Google Sky Map to identify constellations and planets in the night sky.
Take the opportunity to talk about the moon, our solar system and the differences between planets. The NASA app is a fantastic research tool, jam-packed with more information on the U.S. space program and astronomy than you could digest in a lifetime.
For engineers of the future
There’s lots of fun, engaging ways to introduce children to the basic concepts of engineering while enjoying the great outdoors. Here are a couple of ideas to try at home:
Build forts together. Planning, building and problem solving will all come into action here. Plan your design, talk about what will make the fort strong and discuss any problems you encounter along the way. Do you need longer sticks to keep it together? A stronger foundation? Are triangular structures stronger than squares?
‘Protect the Egg’
This project is not just for Easter time! Gather together materials (your recycle bin is a convenient source) and help your child devise methods to protect an egg from being dropped from a height. Use bubble wrap, paper straws, cardboard – anything you can find – and explore why some methods are more successful than others.
Maths is all around
Maths is all around us, from buying sweets in a shop to baking cakes. Create links between maths and the real world by emphasising mathematical concepts in everyday activities.
Start a Grow-a-Pound Challenge to raise money for a local charity. The premise is that you take £1 and find creative ways to turn it into more money. For example, you could buy a dog lead and start a dog walking business. Or, buy the tools to do some gardening, when you’ve earned enough you may be able to recruit friends to help make more profit! There are lots of things you can do.
You might uncover the next Richard Branson while raising money for a good cause and learning about profit margins.
Whatever you decide to do – have fun. Although it is important to keep your child’s mind ticking over during the holidays, it is also crucial that there is adequate time to unwind and relax. Embrace the outdoors, make time for your child and enjoy exploring the STEM subjects together.