THE BLOG
12/05/2014 05:14 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2015

4 Things I Tell My Kids About STEM (As Recalled By My First-Grader)

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As an engineer and mother of four daughters and one son, I often wonder if my passion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) has gotten through to my children.

Recently, I had the rare pleasure of going out to dinner with just my youngest daughter. I explained to my first-grader that I was thinking about the main points I cover whenever I gush about STEM, and I asked her if she could tell me. What was getting through to her? It was a test more for me than it was for her. I felt if my message hadn't gotten through to her, I probably needed to refine it. Here's what she told me:

1. "Don't give up." - This is right out of the gate, and so true! Sometimes we try things that don't make sense at first, that stretch our brains and even task our creativity. We often hear this said in sports, but it applies in math and science, too. Practice and patience go a long way toward comprehension and eventual mastery.

2. "Everybody fails, and you will too." - That's pretty deep from a 6 year old! Thomas Edison is credited with saying, "I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Too often we see failures as something we don't want to repeat. The reality is that failure is a very important teaching tool. Failure allows us to gather new information to solve a problem.

3. "A do-over is important." - We implement "do-overs" in our house when behavior has gone awry, but she's right to apply it to STEM. After a failure or setback, a do-over allows us to try again with renewed momentum. This is a great time to tackle the problem with completely different thinking and increased creativity. A do-over brings hope with it, no matter how many times you need one.

4. "Try new things." - This kid makes me so proud. This is good life advice, but is extremely well suited for STEM. By stepping outside of our comfort zones and trying something new, we build up courage. It takes guts to try something new. The cool thing is that by trying something new, we might find a new passion or hobby. It can also help our creativity in problem solving. New endeavors require new ways of thinking, which can help in designing or troubleshooting something at a later time.

Looking back through her points, it appears that my message and passion for STEM are indeed getting through to my youngest daughter. For the record, she already knows what she wants to be when she grows up: an engineer. She might be running seminars by the third grade if she keeps up this sage wisdom!

Reflecting on my journey through school and throughout my career, these four points have been and continue to be essential. The only thing I would add is the importance of working well with others. Come to think of it, I bet my daughter would have some good advice on that topic, too. Maybe I'll take her out to eat again and ask her.