Recent educational initiatives, including the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" and "Educate to Innovate" intend to shape the future of education by promoting the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies. This emphasis on STEM education promises to be beneficial to students as the growth of jobs in these related fields has shown a significant increase. The Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration reports that careers in STEM fields have the potential to grow an additional 17 percent over the next decade. Preparing today's students for these future jobs requires innovative educators, current and cutting-edge curricula, and intentional support for all students to consider a future STEM career.
It is never too early to begin engaging students in STEM studies and encouraging them to pursue a career in a STEM field. As a teacher you can:
Provide STEM role models. Just talking about the people who currently work in STEM jobs isn't enough. Teachers need to find ways to bring these individuals into the classroom - either literally or virtually. Consider your students’ interests and strengths, and research ways to connect learners to STEM professionals who share similar traits and enthusiasm. Students benefit from seeing professionals at work and learning about their educational backgrounds and careers. Local STEM professionals would likely be thrilled to come and meet with students in person to describe their work, while others may be available to participate in video conferencing with students. The National Role Model Directory and Great Minds in STEM are two online sites that provide profiles of possible STEM role models.
Connect current learning to possible future STEM careers. Effective teachers show students the connection between what they are learning today and its relevance on their future career. Professors, researchers, and students at North Carolina State University have created a series of videos which aim to explain the relationship among their specific STEM career, key STEM principles and classroom objectives. For example, one video demonstrates the importance of basic geometric principles on the proper design of traffic circles and roundabouts. Another shows how a nurse must accurately calculate dosages for patients' medication using fractions, proportions, and mathematical equations. Additionally, these videos and the accompanying online information are an excellent way of providing students with examples of STEM professions.
Pursue STEM partnerships. Not only are STEM-related industries growing, but they know that their future success depends on the education and interest of today's students. Because of this, many STEM companies and organizations are actively partnering with schools to provide a deeper connection for students. Aviation High School in Seattle, Washington is a public high school with an aviation and aeronautics emphasis. Established in 2004, the school has pursued partnerships with aviation and engineering innovators in the Seattle area to enhance students' education over the past eight years. The Boeing Company, Alaska Airlines, NASA, the FAA, and Civil Air Patrol are among the school's industry partners that bring STEM careers to life inside and outside of school walls. Select students have participated in Alaska Airlines delivery flights from The Boeing Company and others have worked alongside industry engineers to solve real life problems and to create innovative solutions.
Teachers can find excellent resources here, at the Silicone Valley Education Foundation (SVEF). Their work with students showed a double digit percent gain (31%) in proficiency in pre- and post-assessments of students who completed the algebra program in 2011. SVEF will soon launch a STEM website filled with resources to further boost STEM education.
If you are new to teaching science or would like to boost your effectiveness, don’t miss our webinar for K-8 teachers, The New Science Teacher: Tips and Tricks to Thrive in the Classroom on Thursday, June 14. Click here for more information, and Register today!