As parents, we are our children’s first teacher. As our children grow, our role expands; we become education consultants, connecting our children to enrichment opportunities, and guidance counselors, offering advice on education and career decisions.

Whatever role we are currently playing, we make sure to reinforce at home what they are learning in the classroom and connect what they are learning to real-world educational experiences. In fact, the work that we do at home with our children to support what they are doing in school and connect this to the real world has the biggest academic impact. This is particularly critical when it comes to STEM education and our collective efforts to bridge the STEM gap.

You don’t need to be an engineer, doctor or scientist to support your child’s exploration of STEM learning. You can support your child’s interest and achievement in STEM education by simply setting clear and high expectations for student performance and creating supportive learning environments at home. Ask questions that help prompt your student to think about the “why” behind how things happen and work.

You can also explore and support STEM learning at home by conducting science experiments with your child. Ask your child’s teacher how technology is used in the classroom and ways you can use technology at home. Be sure to spend time online together and put your internet rules in writing. Try building something with your child and describing how it involves everyday engineering. Showcase the ways you use math in life and practice math concepts.

Talk with your children about STEM careers and connect them to STEM professionals whenever possible. This will help them understand the wide variety of job possibilities in STEM and inspire their interest in these fields. In order to meet the rapidly-growing demand for STEM professionals and develop the next generation of leaders, as parents we must foster our children’s passion for STEM subjects and help them build the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue STEM degrees and career opportunities.