It might not surprise you that the fastest-growing percentage of high-paying jobs are in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. These days, jobs you might never expect are requiring STEM skills—like coding—so children who are getting a head-start in STEM are setting the foundation for years to come.

The informal STEM learning space, such as a summer program, can have a big impact in all sorts of formative areas, educational experts report. “It’s another language that young people can learn,” says Sara Plachta Elliott, Ph.D., executive director of the Youth Development Resource Center. “Most summer STEM programs teach collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving, which are all great skills for young people to be developing outside of the school day. STEM programs can also boost literacy skills because kids often have to read, follow and implement directions.”

In STEM programs, students might construct a rocket with LEGOs or build a map of London in Minecraft. They might work on an idea for a new video game app, code a design website or write a blog post about constellations. Learning can be both fun and educational.

Some young people are even taking their STEM skills a step further, earning money by making YouTube videos and designing websites for people. “It’s truly the path of the future,” says Elliott. “These ambitious kids are learning how to be entrepreneurs before they’ve even attended college.”

Universities are also seeing the benefits of introducing STEM skills early, many of which are offering summer STEM programs. These programs provide the added benefit of overnight stays, a great way to introduce young people to all aspects of college life.


What to Look for:

  • Adults on staff that are experienced in working with kids
  • Strong check-in and check-out processes
  • Programs that offer scholarships–always ask if they are available


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