From inside the K-12 bubble, it's easy to believe that schools are implementing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and STEAM (adding art to STEM) initiatives, but that's not necessarily the case. In 2016, a Gallup research poll conducted by Google found that only 40% of U.S. schools offer programing or coding classes.
There are conferences and programs all dedicated to implementing STEM technology and STEM solutions, but what about supporting the shift in demands for future careers?! And what qualifies as a STEM career? Let's take a look at the landscape so we are able to prepare students better for 21st century careers.
What is a STEM Career?
According to Columbia State College, STEM careers are careers in Science, Tech, Engineering, Math, and Medicine — "The careers that will be in demand in the future and will create the economy of tomorrow." The following are a list of STEM careers. For the full list, click here:
- Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineering
- Agricultural/Biological Engineering and Bioengineering.
- Architectural Engineering.
- Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
- Biochemistry/Biophysics and Molecular Biology.
- Chemical Engineering.
- Civil Engineering Technology/Technician.
- Computer Engineering Technology/Technician.
- Construction Engineering Technology/Technician.
- Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering.
- Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering.
- Genetics, General.
- Geotechnical Engineering.
- Hydraulics and Fluid Power Technology/Technician.
- Industrial Engineering.
- Manufacturing Engineering.
- Mechanical Engineering.
- Nuclear Engineering.
- Optics/Optical Sciences.
- Robotics Technology/Technician.
- Solar Energy Technology/Technician.
- Structural Engineering.
- Systems Engineering.
- Transportation and Highway Engineering.
Facing the Facts
Key Tips to Prepare Students
Now that we have identified some STEM careers, let's go through some "musts" to preparing kids for future STEM careers.
Get Students Excited
This can be a challenge and something that educators often face. In fact, in 2015, it was reported that 63% of teens had never even considered a career in STEM, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Traditional approaches to STEM subjects can bore students and turn them off from future studies in STEM fields. Incorporating more hands-on, project-based learning activities is one sure-fire way to boost student interest in STEM. Giving students the opportunity to build things like a robot, conduct experiments, or use new technology like 3D printing and Virtual Reality.
Hire/Train STEM Proficient Educators
Why don’t schools, especially elementary, focus more on STEM? One reason may be a lack of knowledge or interest from educators themselves. Elementary educators are already tasked with teaching students the basics of reading and writing and may find incorporating STEM overwhelming. It is true that many elementary educators report feeling anxious about teaching STEM. In order to empower elementary educators to teach STEM, teacher preparation programs must focus more heavily on STEM content. By requiring future elementary educators to take more STEM-related coursework, middle schools, high schools, and colleges can help boost the level of STEM education students receive.
A crucial mistake educators and schools are making when it comes to preparing students for STEM careers is simply waiting too long. While math and science are required subjects for elementary students, many elementary educators ignore the technology and engineering components of STEM. This means when students are exposed to technology and engineering in middle and high school, they may lack the foundational knowledge needed to succeed.
However, elementary educators must also challenge themselves to incorporate STEM into their lessons. This can be as simple as adding STEM vocabulary to activities they already use —referring to activities as experiments, calling a theory a hypothesis, etc. STEM is a natural fit for younger students, who by nature enjoy experimenting and discovering the world around them.
STEM in Education is a Shared Responsibility
That's right — it's a team effort in education to implement STEM into the district, school, and classrooms.
Superintendents and higher-ups must make STEM a priority when it comes to budgeting and funds. Schools must support teachers and offer STEM electives, as well as challenging STEM courses. Lastly, teachers of all grades and subjects must make an effort to include at least the basic principles of STEM in their classrooms.
If you would like to find out how to bring STEM solutions into your classroom, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.