By Charlene Roth, Member of San Jose Unified Council of PTAs
According to government sources, employment in STEAM occupations is projected to grow at more than twice the rate of non-STEAM occupations over the next decade. Education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is invaluable for future job prospects and personal development.
Because many children shy away from STEAM subjects, fun ways to encourage learning, such as makerspace classes and video games, have been gaining popularity as educational tools. San Jose Unified Council of PTAs presents some tips on how to plug your kids in with STEAM!
Benefits of Using Games to Teach STEAM Skills
Video games have an edge over less-interactive media, such as videos, because they put players in the driver’s seat. The player controls their own experience, rather than passively consuming it.
Games also motivate players to keep playing by providing constant rewards, such as a higher level, for accomplishments. This keeps players from getting tired of playing the game.
Games can also provide a sense of community, whether that is from community message boards or in-game chat systems. When kids can engage with other kids who share their interests, they are more likely to keep playing.
Games That Teach STEAM Skills
Because games are already a technology-oriented platform, they are particularly well suited for teaching STEAM skills. These are a few of the many games you should consider incorporating into your child’s STEAM education.
Voyager: Grand Tour
This game is a physics puzzle game that allows players to explore the cosmos. It features a detailed 3D rendering of Earth’s solar system. Players learn about the Voyager probe, basic physics principles and rocket science while performing tasks such as planning slingshots around planets, exploring space and avoiding hazards. The game is free to play but does include in-game purchases.
The “SimCity” series is one of the top-selling simulation games of all time. The original “SimCity” came out in 1984 and allowed players to build and manage their own city. The basic gameplay has remained much the same over the years, but the latest installment features realistic graphics and massive cities. Players must focus on the nitty-gritty details of building infrastructure, designing transportation routes, combating pollution and more to make their city a success.
“Prodigy” is an educational game specifically designed to teach math skills. Inspired by popular RPGs, such as “Pokemon,” the game makes learning math fun by allowing players to engage in math battles with in-game characters. This game is particularly useful for classrooms and homeschooling because teachers can customize it to match their classroom material.
Pitfalls To Avoid
Some games that include engineering components, such as “Fallout 4,” are strictly for adult players only, as Super Parent explains. While extremely popular, the “Fallout” series features guns, violence and some pretty gory graphics.
Additionally, even educational games can be too much of a good thing if your child plays them excessively. Be sure to balance game time with other entertainment and educational options to avoid accumulating excessive screen time, particularly if you have a younger child. Make sure your child takes breaks to avoid physical strain, and that gaming doesn’t interfere with other activities.
What You Need To Get Started
Video games are available on many different platforms, from handheld devices to smartphones, computers and dedicated gaming systems. Chances are good that you already have at least once device capable of playing video games in your home. However, since most games require strong internet connectivity for downloads and multiplayer modes, you will probably need a quick and reliable internet connection, such as 5G, to be able to quickly download large files and avoid lag during gameplay. Because video games require multiple STEAM skills to create, they are a natural medium for teaching those skills. Whether you employ strictly educational titles, such as “Prodigy,” or entertainment games that also teach STEAM skills, such as “SimCity4,” there’s a world of opportunity out there to get kids excited about learning STEAM subjects.