Kids are increasingly involved in after school programs. Sports, music, dance, art, karate; the list just seems to go on and on! This can make it challenging for families to find time for new opportunities and programs. How do you know what to prioritize?
One of the most common reasons we hear for why kids can’t be a part of STEM programs is that they are busy with the most Canadian of pastimes; hockey. Hockey seems to always take the top spot when it comes to the list of priorities for kids, and it can be one of the most time-consuming activities to be a part of.
To be clear, we are not here to bash hockey! We think the key to success and happiness for kids is having them involved in a wide variety of activities; so, there’s room for both hockey and STEM!
But what we have noticed is that while many families are really clear on the benefits of hockey, they are less clear on how STEM programs can add huge value to their kids.
We asked some of our kids and families who play hockey to list what they believe to be the most important benefits of playing hockey. We found that, funnily enough, we always mention the exact same things whenever we talk about the benefits of STEM learning. Let’s take a closer look.
We know, this might not seem like the first thing that would come to mind when talking about STEM learning, seeing as many people associate STEM with the image of some nerdy guy alone in a basement or a mad scientist locked in some laboratory.
But hear us out.
We truly believe that collaboration is the key to success in STEM; no great ideas come in isolation. The best discoveries and inventions are never a solo performance. They involve entire teams of people dedicated to bringing an awesome idea to life and sharing their skills.
Collaboration is the core skill we focus on in our programs. In hockey you need to work with your teammates, support them when they need you, contribute your skills where they are most useful, and celebrate victories as a team effort.
The same applies in the world of STEM.
Through working with their peers, kids learn how to share ideas, take in feedback, discover and utilize their strengths, and learn from others.
This critical skill of collaboration and teamwork shows up in a big way in both STEM and hockey.
According to the parents we talked to, resilience is a huge reason for why they put their kids in hockey. Understanding that sometimes you will do your best and will still lose, understanding the value of hard work, and developing the ability to keep trying even when things get really hard are all super important skills for kids to learn and something that hockey constantly reinforces.
Once again, the same benefits show up in the world of STEM.
In STEM, mistakes are going to happen. You will try your best and things still won’t come out the way you want them to. You will have an amazing idea in your head and have to work tirelessly to build the skills you need to bring it to life. Most annoyingly, technology will sometimes just plain not work!
If we, or any of our favourite STEM role models, gave up because of these obstacles, we would miss out on a whole bunch of amazing inventions and discoveries.
These kinds of experiences in STEM learning help build that very same resilience in kids as they learn to try new things, learn from failure, and persist even in the face of obstacles. And when they do, the things they’re capable of are pretty amazing.
Finding something that you are good at, getting the chance to learn something new, being in an environment where people support you; these are the ingredients for experiences that build confidence in kids.
Just as a coach supports not only the development of skills but the development of confidence in a child, a teacher or leader in STEM can do the same.
Yes, the skills learned may be different. But at the end of the day, it’s not usually the specific skill we learned that brings us value. It’s the opportunity to try something new and have someone who will support you in that struggle.
Once again, both hockey and STEM provide an opportunity to do just that.
This is one that can sometimes be surprising to people who don’t play sports. How is hockey creative? I thought creativity was for art?
Funnily enough, we often hear similar sentiments when we talk about creativity in STEM. Which makes it very fitting that, as you might have guessed, both hockey and STEM are huge opportunities for kids to build their creativity.
Being able to make a split-second decision on how you should handle the puck, who you should pass to, what moves you need to make to score a goal, understanding how to combine the skills you know in a new way for a specific context; these are all examples of creativity in hockey. Not just creativity, but creative problem solving!
Improving as an athlete isn’t just about improving your physical skills, it’s also about improving your mental skills.
That same creativity and creative problem solving comes into play in STEM.
Thinking about the problem you are trying to solve, what the best solution would be, how to bring that solution to life, what to change as you discover new things and encounter new obstacles; welcome to the world of STEM! This is what we do all day, every day.
Now, while STEM and hockey share many things in common, we are the first to admit there are some unique benefits to each activity.
Hockey does provide a healthy dose of physical activity that is definitely not present in many other programs. This is why, as we mentioned earlier, it is so important to have a balance in the activities kids are a part of! Building a healthy, active lifestyle is critical for both physical health and your mental and intellectual health!
However, what is a unique benefit to STEM is the real-world transferability and the building of in demand skills.
Learning to play hockey is only relevant from a skills perspective if you end up playing hockey professionally. That’s not to say learning to play hockey isn’t a worthwhile endeavour; as we’ve discussed, there’s lots of other skills you learn through playing hockey. But the actual skill of physically playing hockey well isn’t really going to come up that often outside of the NHL.
STEM learning, on the other hand, is useful no matter where your life takes you. The technical skills learned through STEM experiences are becoming increasingly important in the vast majority of industries; even ones you wouldn’t normally associate with STEM!
Again, this isn’t to say that you need to stop playing hockey. Learning key skills like collaboration and resilience only becomes easier the more you are able to explore it in different situations and settings.
What we are suggesting is that you reconsider how you prioritize STEM for yourself and your kids. Balancing the activities your child is involved in to include STEM will not only benefit them throughout their lives, but can even help them improve their hockey skills (check out our blog post on the Science of Hockey to learn more)!
So, there is room for both hockey and STEM and we hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the connection between the two.
Have another connection between hockey and STEM that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!