Post by Eboni N. Walker, 5 June 2021
I have a seven-year-old son who is obsessed with aeronautics. His pretend play includes any variation on aviation, engineering, and things that go really fast. At first I thought it was a phase when his code name became Southwest, but his love affair with flying has really taken off.
While my father, who worked many years for Lockheed Martin, tried his best to get me excited about the external tank he was helping to build for NASA, it was my son who encouraged me to reach for the stars. I keep wondering “Why does STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) matter so much to him?”
Well, for starters, STEM is simply a conduit for systems thinking. The world we live in is complex and requires people to imagine and create solutions for our problems. Systems thinkers generate designs to approach theories, test assumptions, and connect the dots in our structures. Design thinking has taken humankind to the moon, and will take us to Mars within a few years.
So I have chosen to get on board. I allow my son to tinker with old parts, use real tools, save boxes, construct command centers, and tape or hot glue together whatever he can think up.
As an early childhood practitioner, I realize that he is exploring. Our home, here in southeast Louisiana, is full of STEM-based opportunities to engage young children in explorative learning and play.
As his mother, I’ve had to learn about things I have never taken an interest in — airplanes, rovers, mach speed, and really bad space puns. Over these few years I’ve come to share his curiosity for uncovering the darkness that stretches beyond our reach. And though I find myself addicted to space jokes, someday I may over-comet!