STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and encompasses a vast array of subjects that fall into each of those terms. While it is almost impossible to list every discipline, some common STEM areas include: aerospace engineering, astrophysics, astronomy, biochemistry, biomechanics, chemical engineering, chemistry, civil engineering, computer science, mathematical biology, nanotechnology, neurobiology, nuclear physics, physics, and robotics, among many, many others. As evidenced by the multitude of disciplines, it’s clear that STEM fields affect virtually every component of our everyday lives.
In the United States, STEM is of the utmost importance because of the role these subjects play at multiple levels of society, and the tremendous impact they have. Our country’s entire economy revolves around mathematics: accounting, economics, functions and logarithms, and calculus. The architecture industry is centered on math, as is urban development and city planning. Medical research is fueled by the study of chemistry and biology, and environmental efforts like sustainable energy and nuclear power are also steeped in the sciences. It’s impossible to find a part of society that does not, in some way, interact with these subjects, and since so many of these industries are coordinated by or connected to our government at some level, it’s safe to say that the very governing of our country depends on them. STEM is essential to our education system, as school districts across the country strive to build a stronger curriculum around these subjects.
STEM and Education
Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. Occupations in STEM-related careers are some of the fastest growing and best paid of the 21st century, and they often have the greatest potential for job growth. As America strives to keep up with the current and projected demand for STEM output, it is important that our country remains competitive in fields of science, technology, medicine, and all of the other STEM fields we have mentioned so far. The best way to ensure future success and longevity it is to make sure that American students are well versed in these subjects. Building a solid STEM foundation through a well-rounded curriculum is the best way to ensure that students are exposed to math, science, and technology throughout their educational career.
Students are extremely curious and impressionable, so instilling an interest at an early age could spark a lasting desire to pursue a career in any of these fields. By the time a student is ready to enter the work force, they must have enough knowledge to make invaluable contributions to our nation’s STEM industries. It is also important that schools have an ample amount of teachers who are experts in STEM, and these subjects should always be considered as high demand subjects. Teachers who follow an alternative route to teacher certification are at an advantage to teach in a STEM field if they majored in one, or are transitioning from a STEM-related career. If you are interested in becoming a teacher and you have studied chemistry, biology, physics, calculus, engineering, or any other STEM subject, you will be a great asset to your school.
PBS Teachers has an abundance of professional development resources to train educators on teaching STEM classes, as well as a useful STEM Resources Center for those who already teach STEM and are looking to further enrich their lessons.
Despite America’s competitive edge in STEM industries, our nation has been experiencing a decline in the output of STEM talent that is not conducive to high demands. School curricula have been lacking in their math and science components, and in response to this decrease in STEM education, several initiatives have been started to reclaim the lead and produce literate, savvy, and driven young talent that will leave their indelible marks on STEM industries.
The American Competitiveness Initiative
The American Competitiveness Initiative was instituted by President George W. Bush in 2006 to address the shortfalls in federal support of STEM educational development. The initiative called for a significant increase in federal funding with the hopes of seeing an increase in college graduates with STEM degrees. It sought to double federal spending for advanced research in physical sciences, and to improve science and mathematics education in public schools. It also aimed to provide additional training for teachers in science, math, and technology. The American Competitiveness Initiative has since been replaced by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.
The STEM Education Coalition
The STEM Education Coalition supports STEM programs for teachers and students at agencies that offer STEM related programs, such as the US Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. The STEM Education Coalition defines itself as “an alliance of more than 500 business, professional, and education organizations, [that] works aggressively to raise awareness in Congress, the Administration, and other organizations about the critical role that STEM education plays in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.”
100Kin10 is a new initiative founded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Opportunity Education, and NewSchools Venture Fund to “recruit, prepare, retain, and support 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the coming 10 years in order to prepare all students with the high-quality STEM knowledge and skills needed to address the most pressing national and global challenges of tomorrow.” Since their inception in January 2011, they have recruited over 80 partner organizations that have committed to help increase the supply of teachers, develop and retain excellent teachers, and ensure that all students are literate enough in STEM to become excellent contributors to society.
Corporations and Institutions Promoting STEM Education
Rossier School of Education, USC
In June 2011, Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education participated in the inaugural Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America. CGI America united over 600 business, nonprofit, and governmental leaders to brainstorm initiatives for increasing economic growth in the United States. USC Rossier is a part of 100Kin10, thus becoming the first school to join that Initiative. Dean Gallagher and 100Kin10 joined the Opportunity Equation, Teach for America, the National Math + Science Initiative, and many others at CGI in being recognized by Bill Clinton for “a commitment to increasing the supply of excellent teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
Northeastern University's Center for STEM Education offers support and resources for STEM related scholarships, education programs and more.
One of the leaders in innovative computer technology, Intel, has demonstrated their commitment to STEM. As a prime example of a company completely centered around STEM, Intel represents one of many industries who’s prosperity, and therefore the prosperity of our country, relies on future generations’ interest in these fields. Their Education page seeks to help teachers enrich their STEM classes and inspire students to become future leaders in the industry. Through guidance for lesson plans, curriculum design, and interactive multimedia resources, Intel empowers teachers to create fun and exciting lessons that will engage with their students while also bringing STEM to the forefront of the classroom.
Do you know of other great STEM programs or initiatives? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject STEM Education.