You’d be hard pressed to find a child who doesn’t want to build a robot out of LEGO,make it move, and challenge other child-built robots.
Robotics for Kids is just one of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs offered at the Delta & Tsawwassen Sylvan Learning Centre. Others include Coding for Kids and Math Edge, and they all encourage creativity and imagination, problem-solving, and hands-on activities.
“We want students to take an interest now,” says Brianne Kirkby, the Centre Director. “STEM careers are the fastest growing careers. The British school system is already teaching coding, for example.”
The programs are designed to be fun for kids, but also educational.
In Robotics for Kids, students build and program robots with LEGO bricks and software, learn science and engineering concepts with pulleys, levers, and motors, and participate in a wrap-up activity to reinforce the skills learned.
“We want to show that these classes are fun and have a real-world benefit,” says Kirkby. “They’re not always the coolest subject to take at school so it’s important to have that good foundation in the younger grades, where they know they like it. It’s much harder to do once they reach high school.”
Introducing STEM early in a child’s life can open them up to more possibilities in university, as it will help them when they have to choose courses in Grade 10 that will affect their career paths.
An early exposure to STEM can be most beneficial to girls, according to Kirkby, who says only one in five people in university engineering, math, and science programs are women.
“There’s really no reason why girls shouldn’t be more involved,” says Kirkby. “If girls don’t take an interest at a younger age, it manifests into them thinking they can’t do it.”
To remedy this dearth, the Sylvan Learning Centre is reaching out to organizations such as Girl Scouts or Brownies with a focus on girls-only programs.
“Sometimes girls are put off by doing something if so many boys are involved,” says Kirkby. “They feel self-conscious about whether they belong there.”