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How to Engage Middle School Boys in STEM

STEM and boys: Two middle school boys smile while one holds a STEM project

How to engage boys in science, technology, engineering, and math

Key takeaways:

  • Engaging boys in STEM is important for many reasons, one of which is that STEM jobs are among the most in-demand careers in today’s society.

  • Boys learn in different ways compared to girls.

  • Incorporating hands-on learning, movement, and real-world lessons help boys engage in STEM.

  • Lamad Academy places a core focus on STEM in all subjects taught at the school.

Middle school can be a tough time for boys. The hormonal changes they’re experiencing can cause a lot of emotional and behavioral problems, which often result in them being marginalized by their peers and even teachers. This marginalization can extend to the classroom, too, where encouraging them to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects isn’t given the same emphasis as engaging girls in STEM.

Over the last few years, emphasizing STEM for girls has become more common, and for good reason. They’ve been left out more often than boys in the past and not always encouraged to push through when something in this field doesn’t come naturally. Boys, on the other hand, are not usually given the same push to actively seek out STEM subjects. They may do it on their own, but they may not. When that’s the case, don’t fear, there are many ways to encourage interest in STEM in boys. We discuss ways to engage middle school boys in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Why engaging boys in STEM matters

STEM jobs are among the most in-demand careers in today’s society. Unfortunately, many boys are not pursuing their classes with vigor, even if they have an interest in these subjects. When boys aren’t engaged in STEM classes, it can lead to them dropping out of school or choosing a career path that won’t lead to future success.

In fact, recent studies show that boys have fallen behind girls in school. A 2018 Brookings Study revealed that only 82% of boys graduated from high school, compared to 88% of girls. The number of boys who go on to college has also fallen. The National Student Clearinghouse noted that women made up 60% of college enrollment, compared to only 40% of men in 2020. While data suggests college enrollment has fallen by 1.5 million students recently, men account for 71% of that drop.

Why boys often struggle in school

In many ways, boys are often at a disadvantage in school. Most boys are hardwired to be loud, active, and restless. This behavior doesn’t fit into the modern educational model, which has students sitting still at desks for hours at a time. By contrast, boys are more alert when they’re standing or moving around.

Education experts and researchers also understand that boys learn in different ways compared to girls. “Boys show more areas in the brain dedicated to spatial-mechanical strengths, and fewer dedicated to verbal areas,” according to MiddleWeb.

This means boys tend to lag when it comes to reading, writing, and language skills. These skills form the basis for most learning in elementary school. By the time they get the middle school, boys may already be discouraged and disengaged.

If we want boys to succeed, they need to be equipped with the right tools. A STEM education, starting in lower and middle school, can help ensure their future. Now, let’s look at 4 tips for engaging boys’ minds.

1. More hands-on learning

Middle school is the perfect time to encourage STEM learning using hands-on and experiential activities. Hands-on learning can help engage active young boys. By making learning fun, it ensures ensure kids are actually interested.

2. Incorporate movement

Rather than work against the high energy inherent in boys, use their restlessness to your advantage. Incorporate movement into lessons. The traditional lecture model, with students taking notes or quietly reading/studying, might need to take a back seat to more active learning. For instance, have students build and test rockets, which involves science, math, technology, and engineering. And, the girls in class will end up having more fun, too!

3. Incorporate real-world applications

It’s sometimes hard for students to see how geometry or the periodic table of elements relates to real life. Integrating real-world applications gives purpose and meaning behind lessons. Boys, especially, want to know why they need to know certain information. Linking lessons to things that happen outside the classroom walls lets boys know they’re solving problems they will encounter out in the world.

4. Encourage teamwork

There’s a reason so many boys are drawn to team sports. Beyond the competition factor, boys find a lot of satisfaction in working with others toward a common goal. In football, the goal is to score touchdowns and win the game. In the classroom, the goal might be to build something or solve real-world problems together.

Eight lesson categories

The Atlantic published an article years ago focusing on successfully teaching boys. They listed eight ways lessons can engage boys in learning. They include:

1. Lessons that result in an end product 2. Lessons that are structured as competitive games 3. Lessons requiring motor activity 4. Lessons requiring boys to assume responsibility for the learning of others 5. Lessons that require boys to address open questions or unsolved problems 6. Lessons that require a combination of competition and teamwork 7. Lessons that focus on independent, personal discovery and realization 8. Lessons that introduce novelty or surprise

These types of lessons can go a long way in engaging boys in STEM subjects, as well as in school in general. When boys want to learn, they will succeed. Giving them the motivation to learn is the first step.

The STEM approach at Lamad Academy

At Lamad Academy, our approach to learning includes integrating math and science into every subject. This allows students to make natural connections between these subjects and the real world. Our goal is to encourage middle school boys (and girls) to get more involved in science, technology, engineering, and math. We use real products that allow for more hands-on learning and encourage all students to interact with each other throughout the process.

Lamad Academy believes in developing scholars who love learning. We focus on STEM subjects so that our students are prepared for jobs that will be in demand in the future. This philosophy pushes us to integrate these subjects into every facet of our education.

Contact us if you have any questions about our curriculum or our other academic offerings. If you are looking for a school for your future or current middle-school child, contact the Lamad Academy Admissions Office.

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