Almost everyone agrees comprehensive Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is important to the economic future of this country. STEM advancement and discovery leads to innovation and new industries that will drive the American economy of tomorrow. The need for change is apparent as U.S. education is not producing the talent demanded by the job market. According to USNews: “there are 2 million to 3 million unfilled positions because companies can’t find workers with basic technical skills. We’ll have about 10 million such openings before the end of the decade.” Furthermore, in a separate article, USnews reports that the National Assessment of Educational Progress stated “roughly 75 percent of our nation’s high school students are not proficient in mathematics when they complete 12th grade, even as the primary driver of the United States’ economy will be in STEM fields. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations in 2014 will require science or mathematics knowledge to successfully compete for those jobs.” It is easy to blame and scapegoat teachers, but this will not solve the crises or help students. Here are 11 celebrities, groups, educators, libraries and business stepping up and taking action to help solve the STEM crises in education.
will.i.am - Seven-time Grammy Award-winner and frontman for The Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am partnered with inventor and FIRST founder Dean Kamen in 2011 to produce “i.am FIRST — Science is Rock and Roll”. This is a one-hour special which promoted education, science and technology, highlighted the 20th Annual FIRST Robotics Championship and featured special appearances from a host of high profile celebrities. He is also the founder of i.am angel, a non-profit dedicated to “transforming lives through education, opportunity and inspiration”, and he recently raised 5 million to build a community center in East Lost Angeles with STEM educational programs and resources.
Neil deGrasse Tyson- Arguably one of the most widely recognized American astrophysicists and science communicators, Dr. Tyson is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. Since 2006, he has hosted the educational science television show NOVA on PBS and frequently appears on popular television shows, including The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Jeopardy. Dr. Tyson continues to advocate for the importance of science education, discovery and literacy, and why science is not only important, but beautiful.
Public Broadcasting Station’s STEM Resource Center- PBS recognized teachers are increasingly utilizing digital media resources to help students understand STEM concepts. So, PBS created the Teachers STEM Education Resource Center, which currently provides access to a “database of nearly 4,000 science, technology, engineering and math resources for grades preK-12.” The resource center also includes professional development online modules and free webinars to train teachers in topics such as Global Climate Change. PBS continues to produce STEM television programs, including NOVA and NATURE.
National Science Digital Library Online Resource Collections- The National Science Digital Library (NSDL) hosts scientific resource collections around various topics for K-12 Science teachers to utilize in the classroom. It encourages “developers of STEM content, NSF grant awardees, STEM educators and learners, and all other NSDL users and community members to contribute individual resources or collections of resources to the Library.” STEM educational resources offered include lesson plans, scientific data, visualizations, interactive computer models, and virtual field trips.
Citizen Schools - Citizen Schools partners with middle schools in urban communities to open the education box and allow professionals to teach students their real world experiences. It follows an apprenticeship model of a semester-long after-school project in which kids can learn everything from science, robotics and architecture to law and business. These classses are taught by volunteers called Citizen Teachers. According to a press release, Citizen Schools “brings expert scientists, engineers and mathematicians to low-income middle school students to make learning relevant and new career paths possible.”
Sally Ride Science - Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly into space on June 18, 1983, on the space shuttle Challenger. Her company’s motto is “Inform and Inspire through innovative science programs and publications” and it designs and produces products dedicated to supporting girls’ and boys’ interests in STEM. She coauthored a STEM career book series for children, organizes summer science camps for girls, and the Sally Ride Science Academy has trained more than 650 educators since 2009 in STEM education. Sally Ride’s endeavors continue to advocate and promote the importance of STEM education, especially for young girls.
STEM Scouts -STEM scouts is a collaborative effort between universities, government agencies, corporations, schools, teachers and individuals to engage, showcase and get students interested in STEM-related activities and careers. STEM Scouts aims to achieve this through building a community in which students can engage in educational activities designed to not only stimulate curiosity, but also a sense of progress and accomplishment through the earning of badges by completing projects and scientific exploration (like in the Boy or Girl Scouts!).
Chemical Circus - This outreach program, developed by the Chemistry Department at the California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB), has a stated goal to inspire interest in science in the younger generation, and teach leadership skills and the importance of community service to college students. Senior undergraduates and professors engage community children, mostly underrepresented minorities from low income families, through scientific demonstrations and hands on learning activities.
NanoScale Informal Science Education Network- Science centers and museums are doing their part to encourage and support Stem education! One example is the NISE network, which is a “national community of researchers and informal science educators dedicated to fostering public awareness, engagement, and understanding of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology.” Launched in 2005, now 14 museums and universities across the nation are part of the network. It continues to support STEM education and the Nano sciences by providing materials on its website for K-12 educators. This includes both free online resources for download and products for purchase.
NCTAF’s Learning Studios- The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) according to a press release, conducted a “two-year analysis of research studies that document what happens when science, technology, engineering, and math teachers work together in professional learning communities to improve teaching and increase student achievement” The report highlighted the importance of collaboration, innovation and self-assessment. Acting on the report, NCTAF then created the STEM learning studios in 2009 to promote and foster collaboration between classroom teachers and local STEM professionals.
STEM Video Contest- Change the Equation challenged companies “to produce brief videos featuring an employee or group of employees who use math or science in exciting or unexpected ways.” The goal obviously was to inspire interest and curiosity in STEM through seeing real world application. Because I love videogames, one of my favorite submissions was Activision!
There are many innovative and inspiring initiatives and actions, both big and small, being undertaken to improve STEM education in the United States. Fixing STEM education is a huge challenge, but by highlighting the above initiatives and actions, it proves it is not impossible; people, organizations and business across all industries want to help.
This is by no mean a comprehensive or a top ten list. If you have an organization, initiative, individual or event you would like to share, please tell us about it in the comments below! Interested in keeping up to date on Stem Education, please follow the twitter hashtags #STEMSolutions12 and #STEM