Finding STEM in Home Economics
27 Mar 2020

Finding STEM in Home Economics

I don’t know about you, but I had to do chores while growing up. During the summer, before my sisters and I could disappear outside, we each had to complete a simple task. It could be vacuuming the stairs, taking out the garbage, emptying the dishwasher, just some minor errand to help around the house. We all resented how these duties cut into our daily playtime, but we’d get them finished soon enough, and then the day was ours for the taking.

As we grew older, the chores became more elaborate. We would take turns cleaning the bathroom, helping to cook dinner, do our own laundry, etc. These tasks were often boring but never too difficult, and we would complete them with that resigned exasperation teenagers reserve for any mundane activity. Even then, we still didn’t realize our parents were teaching us valuable life skills we would need in the years to come. Turns out being an adult is a lot more work than you’d expect!

Becoming an Adult 101

As America continues to shelter in place following the spread of COVID-19, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the domestic skills my parents helped me develop over the years. Home economics might not be the flashiest of school subjects, but you’ll never hear a student ask, “When will I use this?” With so many families currently homebound now is the perfect opportunity to introduce your children to the basics of Home Ec (que lightning and maniacal laughter). That said, this wouldn’t be VAEI if we didn’t put our own educational twist to the lesson.

It turns out household chores are a treasure trove of STEM integration. From cooking, to cleaning, to health and hygiene, every part of our daily lives can be connected to the study of STEM. With a few slight adjustments, not only will your students learn how to take care of themselves, but you’ll also prick their curiosity and get them asking questions about things they’ve long taken for granted. So, who’s ready to get to work?

Cooking

Cooking is perhaps the most versatile subject on our list. Start with something simple like making rice or boiling pasta. Use the directions conveniently located on most boxes to present your child with questions while they prepare the food:

  • You need 2 cups of water for every cup of rice. One cup of rice is equal to 4 servings. If we need 12 servings of rice, how many cups of rice and water will we need?
  • Why do you think pasta gets bigger when boiled?
  • What is this white residue left behind when we boil water? Do you think there is something in our water?

You can also introduce you child to the subject of nutrition and healthy meals. Have them pick out one of their favorite snacks and read the label to discover how nutritional it is. Not only will children learn more about preparing food, but you’ll get a delicious snack out of the lesson as well!

*(And in case you were wondering, the answers are: 3 cups of rice/6 cups of water, because of starch, and calcium).

Cleaning and Hygiene

It all starts in the bathroom. Given how important it’s become for people to routinely wash their hands, you can begin by instructing your child in proper hand-washing etiquette. From here, show them how germs can spread to the things they touch, and that it’s important to keep these surfaces clean in order to prevent the spread. One method is to use glitter as a means of marking where you’ve been (though this can get messy!) Once they have a better understanding of how germs work, you can spend time comparing cleaning solutions and considering why some may work better than others.

Finally, it’s time to clean! Show them the right techniques for keeping that sink spotless and then have them practice. If we can help our kids develop smart habits for keeping themselves and their families healthy, we may just save lives!

Appliances and Energy

Our houses run on electricity. We use it to power our lights, our appliances, and much, much more. But energy is expensive and using too much can hurt the planet. Why not take this time to show your children the importance of energy conservation? Assign them to do an energy audit of their house. What appliances do they use the most? Which ones do they use the least? Where might they be using more electricity than they should?

To make things interesting, you can even assign them a budget and task them with balancing the costs of powering a house every month. Another option is to have them consider ways they can reduce their energy footprint. Open windows instead of turning on lights. Wear warmer cloths instead of turning up the heat. Not only will your children become financially literate and energy conscious, they’ll learn to ask new questions about the place they call home.

What about you? Are you ready to find STEM in Home Economics?

Today’s Image is supplied by MasterChef Junior Cookbook, order your copy on Amazon.