By Greer Barnes
If you have a child between the ages of five and eighteen, then you’ve probably heard the acronym STEM tossed around at parent-teacher conferences or PTA meetings. You probably don’t know, however, just how important STEM education is and will be for years to come.
For years the U.S. government has funded various programs in the hope of bettering primary, secondary, and higher schools. FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allows students to apply for financial assistance to fund their college educations. No Child Left Behind, a revised version of an earlier law signed by President Lyndon Johnson, has been met with criticism since its inception, though it did initiate a national dialogue about the achievement gaps among underserved students. Since 2012, the federal government has allowed flexibility in state requirements “in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plans designed to close achievement gaps, increase equity, improve the quality of instruction, and increase outcomes for all students,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
What makes STEM unique among many government-funded programs is that its not just about providing kids with equal educational opportunities; STEM is about preparing students for the jobs of the future. Science, technology, engineering, and math, collectively known as STEM, are subjects that should be studied to fill these future positions.
The problem is most students don’t want or don’t have the opportunity to pursue expertise in STEM fields. Only 81 percent and 71 percent of Asian American and white high school students are offered a full range of science and math courses, respectively. The numbers for American Indian, black, Hispanic, and Native-Alaskan students are even lower.
That’s why the Committee on STEM Education (including the Department of Education) is “facilitating a cohesive natural strategy.” Funds will be dedicated to five different areas: improving STEM instruction in primary and secondary schools, increasing youth and public engagement with STEM, improving college students’ STEM experiences, concentrating on groups underrepresented in STEM fields, and designing graduate education for the future’s primarily STEM workforce.
While studying science and math probably seems like a good idea to the average person, increasing students’ interest in STEM subjects is an entirely different story. After all, not every student, and indeed most don’t, enjoy studying math. Rather than teach STEM subjects as separate entities, the goal is to promote STEM subjects as a whole, to show how they work together.
“What separates STEM from the traditional science and math education is the blended learning environment and showing students how the scientific method can be applied to everyday life. It teaches students computational thinking and focuses on the real world applications of problem solving.” (Elaine J. Hom, Livescience.com)
With the STEM initiative still in its early phases, its success is still undetermined. There are ways parents can help promote STEM education interest in their children, however.
ARCKIT is a system of movable and reusable scaled model building kits for kids ages 12 and older. Originally designed by architects to for their own professional use, the ARCKIT sets can be connected to build even bigger and more elaborate buildings, structures and more. ARCKIT GO, the starter kit, is $69.99. As of September 9, the ARCKIT system became available at Barnes & Noble stores across America.