We all know it’s important to ask questions, but how, exactly, do we get our kids to do it? And why is STEM a great venue for asking questions?

The first step is realizing that people generally love talking about themselves and topics about which they are passionate. And no where is this more true than the world of STEM. Even the “rock stars” of STEM are happy to answer people’s questions. In fact, they appear to encourage it, especially with kids.

Perhaps they remember being curious kids needing to know the answer to questions that drove them to become scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Maybe someone answered their questions when they were kids. Whatever the reason, STEM is a great place to get your kids to ask more questions.

For those of us with shy kids, getting them to ask a stranger a question might seem like a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. Kids are resilient and up to the challenge! It’s still a work in progress, but when our family goes out, we encourage our daughters to ask questions and be active participants even though they are naturally quiet and reserved in large group settings.

Here is a simple recipe to make it happen:

  1. Go to a museum, zoo, or science center that interests your child. (For those in the NY area, The American Museum of Natural History is our family’s favorite for many reasons including their educator-run Discovery Room for kids, docent (trained volunteer) tours, docent stations, high school student-run stations, and meet the scientist events.)
  2. Find a docent, volunteer, or educator. They’re usually by hands-on displays waiting for you.
  3. Encourage your child to ask a question. If your child is hesitant, you can start the conversation. Here are some guaranteed winners:
    • What’s your favorite spot/exhibit in the museum? (This is a great question for finding hidden treasures.)
    • What got you interested in this field?
    • What was the weirdest/coolest/most amazing thing you’ve learned about this field?
    • If you’re talking to a scientist: What was the most fascinating thing you’ve discovered?

At first, you might need to use a little bribery to get your kids started, but getting them to ask more questions really can be that simple. Most of the time, they just don’t know how to begin.

It has been incredible to see our daughters’ growth with these simple exercises. They’ve even asked questions to a panel of turtle experts under the blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History!

So the next time you take your kids somewhere, try one of these questions and let us know how it goes!