Recent news shows that middle and high schools are increasing spending on their STEM programs to keep up with the national demand for more scientists and engineers. However, many educators at the lower level are trying to get students interested much earlier.
Last month, President Obama held a meeting with public- and private-sector groups in regards to STEM education, which could start as early as pre-school. Groups included NASA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sesame Workshop, the Girl Scouts and the Fred Rogers Company. The goal of the “early active STEM learning” initiative is to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math as young as possible and to carry that interest throughout middle and high school in hopes of pursuing a career in STEM.
A recent report showed that for the percentage of students who pursue a college major in STEM (16% for math in 2015), only about half work in a related career. At the same time, the projected growth for STEM careers from 2010-2020 remains higher than the average of all occupations. With baby boomers soon retiring, the need for STEM professionals will outweigh the number of people able to fill those positions. Additionally, the United States is lagging behind on an international scale, ranking 29th in math and 22nd in science among industrialized nations.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Education is working towards a cohesive national strategy for STEM, which includes:
- improving STEM instruction in preschool through 12th grade
- increasing and sustaining public and youth engagement with STEM
- improving the STEM experience for undergraduate students
- better serving groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields
- designing graduate education for tomorrow’s STEM workforce.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Science (IES) is also funding research that will examine how early elementary school science teaching can improve outcomes for children from minority and low-income backgrounds.
On a local level, Teza Technologies and CEO Misha Malyshev are active supporters of nonprofits that work with elementary and middle school children outside of the classroom in urban cities to provide academic support and resources. Many Teza employees volunteer their time at After-School All-Stars, After School Matters, buildOn and Adler Planetarium, where they partner with children to teach them about STEM through different educational programs.