It is a proven fact that animals affect teaching and learning STEM to a remarkable extent. Direct contact with animals in their daily life not only improves children’s social abilities and mental well-being but also increases critical and innovative thinking, manual skills and problem-solving abilities. So, we can say animals are great helpers in STEAM learning for children.
Let’s look at why it is essential to engage STEM learning with animals, how to use animals for it and what kind of careers children can take up about animals.
Importance of Animals in STEM Teaching and Learning
There are many benefits of STEM education in children’s social and professional life. Animals also develop essential skills in children.
Establishing a Schedule
Having a pet comes with great responsibility as they rely on the people who look after them for feeding, exercise and bathroom breaks. Parents can charge their children with some of these responsibilities while supervising them. Maintaining a pet’s schedule can be a great helper in establishing a program for children. If they are old enough, children can track their daily feedings, take their pets on a walk, and give baths when necessary.
Self-esteem and confidence might be the most crucial thing in healthy child development. Achieving the tasks such as the ones above (feeding, exercising, etc.) and the pride of looking after another living being develops and improves confidence. It gives them the validation of achievement, which they need to build strong self-esteem. Apart from that, having a pet at home shows them what unconditional love is, as animals do love their owners truly.
Improves Social & Communication Skills
Having a pet gives children the opportunity of a safe topic they can discuss without difficulty when meeting someone new. That may help reduce the anxiety of meeting and talking to new people. In addition, children can quickly bond with other kids who also have pets, even if they are not physically present. Thanks to their pets, they can arrange a play date and socialise with their peer group. Most parks are usually full of pets and their families, so it is not hard to meet and befriend someone from the pet community.
Raises Interest and Understanding in Nature Sciences
Pets can teach so many things to kids while they live together. Children learn many facts and essential knowledge about nature and animals, such as how their bodies work, what kind of food they need, and how they contribute to the order of natural life. As they learn more, their interest in natural sciences and animals may grow, which can lead to a career choice in those fields.
How To Use Animals in STEM Teaching
The importance of STEM education mainly comes from its contribution to developing skills for analysing the situation, coming up with probable solutions, and maintaining the experimental process. In addition, children who are responsible for a pet frequently face real-life problems that they have to overcome.
Animals may be one of the best ways to engage kids with STEM learning. Some researchers from the University of Vienna remark that having a class pet increased students’ social integration and critical thinking skills while decreasing aggressive behaviour. Caring for and interacting with animals has many social-emotional benefits, such as below:
- Direct science instruction
- Leadership and sense of responsibility
- Relaxation and relief from stress
Teachers and parents can support children’s STEM-based education and sparkle their critical thinking skills by urging them to interact with different kinds of animals. For example, children can learn many things about aquatic animals if they have a fish tank at home or in the classroom. They can learn about how they breathe in the water, how much food to give, how they can keep their living space clean, and many more.
Reptiles and mammals are even more convenient for early STEM teaching as they can be touched, moved, and interacted with. For example, teachers and parents can encourage children to design a food bowl that prevents too much feeding for an overweight cat. These practices pose a problem and urge children to produce creative solutions. In addition, they help with kids’ STEM-based education and critical thinking abilities.
As an example, Songül Kalkan, a preschool teacher in Istanbul, applies STEM practices in her daily lessons. One of her projects includes applying animals to STEM learning. Children observe animals and their place in the natural balance. Then, students are asked to find new solutions to the environmental problems they observed. Kalkan claims that she aimed to provide students with some understanding of animals’ part in the harmony of nature and to improve stem learning.
STEM Careers With Animals
Animals can create great changes in children’s lives in ways we don’t even imagine. Apart from their contributions to kids’ mental well-being, they also open up many possibilities for children who haven’t yet discovered their strengths and passions.
Interconnecting animals with STEM-based education provides children with a good understanding of science skills such as problem-solving, analysing and creative thinking. In addition, making activities with animals creates the ground for real-life experiences and hands-on activities, which makes excellent STEM activities.
As we discussed above, living with animals makes people more aware of the problems they experience in their daily lives. So children may want to study and build their lives upon the emerging pet tech market with their innovative skills. Most STEM careers concerning animals surpass the limitations of the laboratories.
Careers in STEM for kids can range from an academic career and research jobs to practical, on-field work. Whatever your child chooses between these career opportunities, all require good STEM learning and critical thinking abilities. Here is a list of job opportunities concerning STEM careers with animals:
- Research in genetics and animal behaviour
- Animal therapy
- Designing ergonomic pet products
- Medical jobs like veterinary
Animals can inspire children on a path in STEM to create a much better world for their animal friends. They can aspire to ease their burden and solve their problems in their professional lives.
Did you know that you can teach your children about animal kingdom with the Twin app?
With “Explore the Animal Kingdom” SDG content pack in the Twin app children learn about the diversity in the animal kingdom and develop a sense of care for animals! Discover now!