STEM Education in the 21st Century
STEM education is getting a lot of attention in the United States over the past year. STEM is an acronym that stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” and it’s an important issue for policymakers, companies, and schools. Why does everyone care so much about STEM? Jobs.
There is a growing gap between the technical skills that companies require and the absence of these skills in graduating students. There will be a shortage of educated people to fill science and math positions before the end of the decade. But whether we simply have a STEM shortage or just an abundance of other great career options is a debatable question. One thing will remain true for future graduates: STEM means jobs. As a result, there is a push for the current education system to reenergize and promote science and math skills in the classroom.
There are some amazing STEM resources available for teachers to use. Check out the Up in the Sky Project that launched this spring. It started with a small group of innovators in Arizona that wanted to get students and teachers excited about science. They built and launched a weather balloon and recorded the entire process. The site has 16 different STEM inquiry-based activities related to the weather balloon. The activities are written by expert educators, technologists, and scientists (yep, one of them has a PhD). Teachers and students can virtually experience launching a weather balloon and interpreting all the corresponding data.
One of the cool features is that teachers and students can use the orange “Questions?” tab to ask this group anything about the project. If you want to know where they bought their balloon, just ask—and they will answer!
STEM conversations come with a sense of urgency these days. Striking a balance between future needs of corporations and necessary education skills will be a critical pathway. Traveling to space, creating the next cool tablet, and launching the next big Internet startup are all very exciting achievements. The people involved in these efforts tend to describe what they created rather than just listing the various STEM skills they had to acquire in order to be successful. The challenge is to make learning these skills engaging for students.
Keep an eye on the latest STEM news with U.S. News & World Report’s STEM Education Blog
Pearson’s Project STEM for grades K–8 provides research-based materials that make it easy for teachers to integrate STEM< seamlessly into existing curricula and instruction.