The Importance of STEM

When they’re young, many children dream of becoming scientists, engineers or inventors. Maybe you have a youngster at home who loves performing experiments in the kitchen or dreams of inventing a robot that can clean the house for you! But few American students pursue that goal in college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are being threatened by a lack of students majoring in these subjects, and President Obama has made it a priority to get more students interested in pursuing them. 


What Is a STEM Education?


STEM is short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The national focus on a STEM education has simple goals:


• to provide engagement for youth in these fields;


• to improve the experience of studying these fields; and


• to educate today’s youth so that they will want to major in a STEM field. 


Over the years, America has been low-ranking in areas of STEM. According to the National Math and Science Initiative, only about 18 percent of high school seniors perform at or above proficiency in science subjects. Even fewer students will actually go on to major in a STEM field. This may be good for them in the job market, but for the rest of the world, it creates a problem. If there is a lack of people interested in science, engineering, technology or math, what will happen to the world?


By beginning to highlight the value of a STEM education, the government hopes to create a workforce of innovative and creative individuals who understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics on a whole new level compared to older generations.


With the world changing as quickly as it is, we need students to be passionate about these fields of study, but usually it’s quite the opposite. Many students will actually have problems with math, science and technology classes because of the difficult material. The goal is not to make students scared of these classes, but instead, to have students embrace their most difficult classes and work with them to begin changing the world.


Benefits of STEM


While STEM areas of study are under-represented and often overlooked, their impact is extremely important. Math skills and scientific knowledge are always expanding, and technology continues to develop at a rapid pace. But what if there’s no one around to research it? Without a STEM education, it’s much easier for technology to fall behind.


Proponents say that science  and math classes aren’t like some courses where kids forget the information after a semester. With science and math, they build on what they learn and everything comes back together to make sense and be applied to the real world. By fostering a good relationship with STEM courses, children learn to apply math or science positively to their lives.


Education experts believe getting kid started young on a STEM education will protect our future. With science and math, students are taught to be analytical and critical thinkers. They’ll be able to look at a problem and immediately think of ways in which the problem could be solved, maybe even think outside the box and solve the problem in a new and creative way.


A STEM education ultimately gives children confidence and will allow them to flourish professionally when they get older. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that by 2018, nine of the 10 fastest growing occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree will also require significant scientific or mathematical training. By being raised with a STEM education, children will have those qualifications. 

Read the next page for STEM activities you can do with your child. 


How Is a STEM Education Being Implemented?


The Department of Education has begun implementing a plan to bring a STEM-oriented education into U.S. classrooms. The first step is awarding grants. School districts in partnerships with colleges will receive grants to create a STEM-centered education in their classrooms to help get children interested in these subjects.


To accomplish this goal, our country will need strong and passionate teachers. This is why the STEM Teacher Pathways program was created – to recruit and train talented STEM teachers for high-needs schools.

STEM Activities You Can Do


While America places its focus on a STEM education, here are some activities you can do with your children to get them interested in STEM:


Museum Trips – By taking a day to explore a museum together, you’re promoting learning by encouraging your children to ask questions and problem-solve. When you introduce science and math in a fun way, children are less likely to find it stressful or have a hard time with it.


Check out: The Museum of Science, Boston’s premiere location for science education. With displays and exhibits ranging from dinosaurs to a dazzling planetarium, there is something for everyone here. Kids can learn hands-on about a variety of topics, such as the human body. The museum also has a Butterfly Garden, an OMNI Theater and an IMAX Theater. 


Teach Kids To Code – Yes, even a first-grader can learn to code! Coding is becoming a huge part of our society, and it’s all based on science and math. By teaching your children how to do simple codes, they will be on their way to growing into innovative adults. By approaching coding in a light-hearted and fun way, kids will see that they can do it!


Check out: ScratchJr. This iPad app introduces kids ages 5 to 7 to the world of programming and coding, allowing them to program their own games and stories. Based on the Scratch programming language developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), kids can snap their own programming blocks together to make characters move, jump, dance and sing. 


Perform Experiments – The easiest way to get kids interested in STEM is to bring experiments home, allowing children to see what makes science and math fun. By following the steps of the scientific method, all you have to do is fill in the blanks with fun projects that can be done any day of the week.


Check out: Pinterest & Our Videos Page. Boston Parents Paper has tons of ideas for experiments on our Pinterest page. Are you interested in doing experiments with eggs or want to learn about the life cycle of butterflies? Our science experiment boards have plenty of ideas! And check out our videos page and watch as we perform some of these experiments by clicking here


As you enjoy these activities with your children, you will help them to embrace STEM in a way that makes sense for them, and ultimately you will be helping our nation in its efforts to advance in these disciplines.


Mabel Sterritt is a Boston Parents Paper intern.

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10 Oct 2014

By Mabel Sterritt