By now you have probably seen these acronyms (STEM, E-STEM, STEAM)
thrown around on blogs, education sites and even commercials. We all know they are important in some way, but how?
First let’s spell them out:
An acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
an acronym for Environmental education, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math
Students aren’t dreaming of becoming computer engineers or hydrologist, they aren’t taking these subjects as an extracurricular in high school, and most completely opt out in college. Currently the US ranks 27th in developed nations in the number of bachelor’s degrees given in science or engineering and yet has a higher number of international students in science and engineering graduate programs then US citizens.
Why is this a problem?
Computer engineers develop those fun apps for your iPhone as well as security systems for nuclear power plants. Environmental scientist monitors our natural resources, like water quality and pollution. Biomedical engineers research potential breakthroughs in early cancer detection and create state of the art medical devices (pace-maker, MRIs).
Think about it: the hybrid car, camera phones, UV disinfection for wastewater, iPhone, Kindle, bionic eye prototype, and 3D printers have all been developed since 2000.
With fewer students pursuing these careers the great strides and discoveries we have made as a society will decline as well and eventually, slow economic growth or movement. We could look to other countries to fill specific needs, but in the end the best people to innovate and fix US issues are those who will benefit from them.
OK enough with the depressing news- let’s talk about how this problem arose and what we can do to fix it.
How’d this happen? Well, STEM careers are hard. Point blank let’s be honest: science and math has been the bane of many students and parents. STEM careers aren’t shown as appealing as becoming a lawyer, fashion designer, or nurse. Also there is a stereotype that STEM careers aren’t really a girl’s field with 18% graduating with a computer science bachelor’s degree, 19% in engineering and 19% in physics.
How can we change this? STEM careers are creative, inquiry based, hands-on careers and we need to show them off not talk about them. The best way to get people in STEM is to allow them to create with and without direction. Now, this is hard for schools because there is a curriculum that has to be followed and teachers are swamped with paperwork, professional development, and running a class.
So finding nature centers, zoos, and children’s museums that have hands-on classes is a great way to get involved. Check out the workshops at the Fort Worth Zoo or the Perot Museum to build your own robot.
Lastly, you can help fund Explorium Denton. So instead of a trip to Dallas or Fort Worth you can drive just down the street. Our goal is to be a STEaM based children’s museum in Denton that services the diverse population of students and families in our town.
~ Amesha Morris
Amesha Morris is an Explorium board member and works for the City of Denton Watershed Program. She is passionate about environmental education.