When we hear STEM, we think of the traditional science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. But STEM fields open a world of opportunities for careers. Susanne Lettner is a Co-Founder of the project DigiMINTKids, which focuses on Digital and STEM education for children (2-10 years). Also she is a STEM ambassador for the Berlin-based initiative "MINT Zukunft schaffen“ (MINT is the German translation for STEM). We spoke with Susanne about her promotion of STEM for boys and girls.
“STEM is an important field and it helps to shape our future through technology. For that we need smart, creative and bright people working on solutions”, says Susanne. She and other STEM ambassadors of „MINT Zukunft schaffen“ help boys and girls to find their way into the STEM field. „MINT Zukunft schaffen“ is the largest German STEM-network comprising the majority of initiatives and activities of German companies, designed to win more qualified professionals for the subjects science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The initiative was founded in May 2008 under the patronage of German chancellor Dr Angela Merkel. It offers a platform for STEM activities and numerous initiatives. STEM’s goal is to present changes of STEM-related topics to the wide public, to inspire and interest young people for STEM and lend weight to political demands.
“I advise girls and boys to get a first impression of the STEM fields by discovering. Internships (for pupils / students), theses (Bachelor / Master) or dual studies are a good opportunity where girls and boys can talk to professionals who can give them tips. So they can learn from them and know what they expect in their studies, which career prospects there are and already test whether this is the right job. Also excursions or lectures at schools and universities are a good way to arouse interest and to get in contact”, explains Susanne.
STEM Events for Boys and Girls
Age-related STEM events are a great way to spark young people's interest in a STEM profession. Susanne Lettner has planned and organised different STEM events for boys and girls. “My experience has shown, that STEM events should be diversified. A STEM event can include a tour through the organization, a discussion and a practical part. The discussion is important. Young people can ask many questions and the employees can talk authentically about their occupational history and their workday. Also the employees can explain the young visitors their daily work challenges or they can present their exciting projects. The practical part is fun! Boys and girls have the possibility to spring into action. The exercises should be co-ordinated to the different age levels. Young people have to try out to arouse curiosity”.
STEM in early childhood education
"STEM based learning for kids can and should start as early as two years of age. And that is the reason why we founded our Project DigiMINTKids, which focuses on Digital and STEM education for children (2-10 years). Our project includes the day-care center for children DigiMINTKids Amberg (Bavaria, Germany), the network location „Haus der kleinen Forscher Amberg-Sulzbach“ and our network DigiMINTNetzwerk. Our project enables innovative networking in our region“, so Susanne.
STEM situations are everywhere! Kids observe their environment, experiment and do stuff to adapt the surroundings. They are curious learners, who explore their surroundings, make discoveries, and try new things out. Why is it like that? What could possibly happen? Can I change how it works? This habit of questioning and trying new things out, is typical in early childhood. At DigiMINTKids, kids are encouraged to investigate and to ask questions about their surroundings.
DigiMINTKids offers children various opportunities e.g. the children can use tablets under guidance to play learning games or to document everyday experiences. Furthermore the kids learn programming with robots, they go on nature walks and explore or they build with Kapla/Lego blocks. In addition, there are STEM experiments and activities that are integrated into everyday life at DigiMINTKids.
School isn’t where learning starts - the early years are important to the rest of the academic career. Giving children hands-on STEM learning opportunities in early childhood education helps in building positive attitude of kids towards education. Preparing future professionals to pursue STEM fields should begin in early childhood education.
In order to get a positive image for the STEM field, good examples from practice are helpful. Media coverage can show that a STEM job is creative and diversified. This allows reporting on outstanding, innovative projects or ideas of people who authentically present their professional activity. Especially to show that women in the field of STEM are actively represented, help girls to self-confidently decide in this area. When children see that a STEM job is exciting and varied, they will decide to pursue a STEM career.
Susanne Lettner is a Co-Founder of the project DigiMINTKids, which focuses on Digital and STEM education for children (2-10 years). Also she is a STEM ambassador for "MINT Zukunft schaffen“ and a Juror for the signets „Digital School“ and „STEM friendly School“. For years, she has been actively involved in the transfer of practice and knowledge in STEM field.