What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The term generally refers to education policy (such as the America Competes Act) and curriculum that encourages student growth and development towards competitiveness in the science and technology fields. It is intended to reduce the current deficit of qualified candidates for skilled jobs; a deficit that is often due to a lack of suitable education.
In other words, it helps make sure that there are people to fill science and technology jobs!
STEM was created to meet a growing need in certain sectors, while dealing with an area of education that needed improvement. It benefits businesses, government, schools, students, and workers who are currently beginning their careers.
For students, it means:
- A chance to be introduced to engineering in the classroom, even as early as elementary school.
- An opportunity to have lessons in the general classroom that were once only offered to gifted students.
- Access to a higher level of math and science based education than the previous generation.
- Hands-on learning and the use of newer technology such as 3D printing. STEM encourages schools to bring more high-tech and cutting edge equipment into the classroom for student use. Classrooms are becoming more modern and teaching is getting more tech-savvy every day.
STEM is a great opportunity to really have a chance to engage in the classroom. Many of the technologies and teaching curricula available take subjects such as engineering and turn them from dry topics into creative, innovative, and understandable projects to explore.
Why is STEM important?
STEM offers more work prospects for students, a better quality of education, and a capable and competent skilled workforce for the future. As our world becomes more focused on science and technology, it is important to be prepared to keep up with the demands while ensuring your employment opportunities.
Without STEM, companies and organizations within the United States and other countries would not be able to find the workers they need to fill vital rolls needed to keep up with progress.
To learn more about STEM, you can visit:
- Congressional Research Service: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: A Primer (PDF)
- S. Department of Education: STEM
- Science Pioneers: Stem Careers: Demand is Up for Today’s Innovators (PDF)
- National Science Teachers Association: STEM: Defying a Simple Definition
- Engineering for Kids: Importance of STEM
STEM in Grades K-4
There are some great learning opportunities, even for the lower grades. These are the building block years that help to inspire students to develop a lifelong interest and understanding of what otherwise might be difficult to understand subjects. It’s a great opportunity to begin to explore the world from on open and academic perspective.
Do you have an interest in space exploration? NASA offers resources for teachers to help students to take those first steps towards the final frontier. You can visit their webpage for educators to learn more.
Science class in general is also getting more interesting with additional in-depth teaching and hands-on activities. To see some available curricula and activities you can visit:
- The University of South Florida: Current modules being implemented in schools based on sunshine state standards.
- Science NetLinks: Science lessons and tools for K-12
- Engineering is Elementary: The EiE curriculum
- Michigan State University W.K. Kellogg Biological Station: Classroom resources
Need a break from reading for a little while? Play a science game at Kinetic City and keep on learning!
STEM in Grades 5-8
In these grades, the lessons get more intensive and learning becomes more technology-based and guided. More schools are working on becoming STEM-friendly. To take a look at what an exemplary STEM school looks like, you can visit the educator Bob Pearlman’s page on innovative STEM middle schools.
Many companies, organizations, and government agencies are working to make STEM not just educational, but also inspiring and interesting to study. Even LEGO has gotten involved by offering creative ways to learn about robotics and design. To learn more about what they are doing in the classroom, you can visit LEGO’s STEM page.
To see more activities that may be available, you can visit:
- Stem Works: Activities
- Engineering Your Life: Homepage
To take a peek at possible class curricula, you can visit:
- Emory: What is CASES online?
STEM in Grades 9-12
Is your school a high-ranking STEM school? Check the US News national rankings list to find out.
Even if it isn’t, chances are there are STEM programs offered within your school curriculum. Check your schedule and see what science, engineering, math, and technology courses are being offered to students. Speak to a guidance counselor and begin to plot your future by starting with the classes you will be taking today.
This is also a great time to expand your opportunities through additional resources, such as:
- The US Navy STEM summer program for high school students
- MIT’s summer program
- Visiting a local STEM-based career fair to see what is available. National fairs can be found via SASE and NACAC.
- Locating and visiting a science museum
- Applying to university
- Getting involved in AP courses
- Looking for internship options
STEM for Girls and Young Women
Women are currently very underrepresented in STEM fields, but there is a large effort underway to change that. In school and in our communities, girls are getting more encouragement and support when it comes to focusing on and attaining goals in science and technology based courses and careers. The Educate to Innovate campaign, Verizon’s Innovative Learning, the #InspireHerMind project, and mentoring programs such as Million Women Mentors hope to be a part of the growth towards equal representation for women in these important fields.
Despite being currently underrepresented, when women enter a STEM job, they often earn significantly more than they would have in other fields, so it is definitely worth the collective effort to make these jobs more attainable to women. It is working to open a well-paying and fulfilling career path to more women.
To learn more, visit:
- The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: Women in STEM
- The United States Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration: Women in STEM: A gender gap to innovation
- STEM Connector, World Class Collaboration to Enable the STEM Economy: Our initiatives