“STEM” seems to be a buzzword in education these days; you hear about it all the time.
But, what is it?
STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics;” the goal of STEM education is to encourage students to take an interest in these subjects at an early age. STEM programs started around 2006, and it’s a good thing they did. According to the Program of International Student Assessment in 2009, fifteen year old U.S. high school students ranked 18th in mathematics and 13th in science in the world. Thirty-four nations were assessed including countries with far less money and resources than the United States; however, despite our wealth, our students lagged behind nations such as Estonia, Slovenia, and Finland in math and science achievement. STEM education aims to correct this disparity.
STEM curriculum is driven by problem solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and active student engagement. It also utilizes specially trained teachers who can integrate technology into the daily educational experience and use inquiry-based teaching methodologies.
Project Lead the Way is a nonprofit organization that provides teacher training for STEM education. Additionally, they are the leading provider of STEM education in the United States with over 6500 schools using their curriculum. Just recently, Ferndale Middle School, in Ferndale, Michigan, announced that Project Lead the Way would launch a STEM program starting next year; they will be the only middle school in the Detroit area to offer STEM courses. The CEO of Project Lead the Way emphasizes that math and science cannot be taught in isolation; by integrating them into other subjects, and presenting them with real world applications, these subjects become more meaningful to students and relevant to their future lives and careers.
According to Project Lead the Way’s website, the U.S. Department of Commerce predicts that jobs in STEM areas will grow 17 percent by 2018 – nearly double the growth for non-STEM fields. This means that we will have more than 1.2 million unfilled STEM jobs because there will not be enough qualified workers to fill them. STEM programs attempt to fill this gap by getting middle and high school students interested in these fields and ready to embark on careers in fields that are going to need qualified employees in the future.
What can you do as a parent to help your child succeed in STEM education? Consider these helpful tips by K12 education expert, Dr. Patricia Fioriello: