Friday, October 24, 2014

Making STEM Education “Cool”

September 30, 2011 by twalker  
Filed under Featured News, Top Stories


By Robert McNeely

Leaders from the world of education, business, and even fashion met at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last week for a panel discussion on how to engage schools and students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. The panelists debated the many ways to “make science cool,” agreeing that greater efforts were needed to foster student interest in the subject, increase its prevalence in elementary schools, and address the current gender gap in STEM-related jobs.

The eight-person panel included Anousheh Ansari, Chairman and co-founder of Prodea Systems, Marc Ecko, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Marc EckoEnterprises, Tom Luce, Chief Executive Officer of the National Math and Science Initiative, Inc., and Dr. Linda P. Rosen, Chief Executive Officer of Change the Equation.

Brian Kelly, Editor of U.S. News & World Report, moderated the panel and challenged the panel on key issues such as developing effective STEM programs to fit the needs of all public schools and using innovations inside the classroom in the early stages of a child’s educational development.

The panelists agreed that students needed to have access to current STEM data in the classroom. Ansari said STEM education had to be interactive, with students being able to study material that will prepare them for 21st century jobs. To accomplish this, however, an emphasis on better funding for STEM education is needed throughout the country.

The panelists also advocated STEM learning at an early age. Rosen said that students needed to be immersed in STEM education because, without a vast knowledge of how prevalent STEM is in the workforce, students will continue to show little interest in the subjects.

“You don’t know which moment or experience is going to inspire kids to STEM learning and careers so we have to drench our kids experiences with science and math. They also need to see and hear about people who have made their way from an interest in science to a career,” said Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer of, a K-12 teacher resource site.

Ecko believes that the private sector needs to be more involved with the education system to demonstrate that not every STEM-related job requires, as Ansari described it, “sitting in a lab with a white coat all day.”

Ecko warned, however, that schools and policymakers need to keep up with the rapidly-changing technological landscape and become more willing to try new things.

“Philanthropy and the private sector, there’s only so much tolerance they have to keep banging their head into the wall over and over again,” Ecko said. “There’s a certain point that the folks on the ground at a local level have to start being less xenophobic. [They say] ‘Oh, my kids are good, those kids are the problem,’ [The problem is] all of us, folks.”

One of the longest-standing problems surrounding science and math education is the gender gap, recently highlighted in a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The report found that women are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, despite the fact that they make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and half of the college-educated workforce. Lack of female role models, and gender stereotyping were cited as chief causes of this gap.

Rosen noted that the media tends to portray science and technology as “geeky and nerdy” and that a cultural change is necessary to promote the efforts of equalizing STEM jobs. Rosen also noted that many other countries don’t have a gender gap problem because their emphasis on STEM careers don’t single out one gender.

The efforts at closing the gender gap underscore how important STEM is for the nation’s economic competitiveness. The National Education Association believes future prosperity is tied to innovation spurred on by all students’ engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The common core standards, says NEA Senior Policy Analyst Mike Kaspar, care crucial to this effort.

“NEA and educators are supporting the common core standards and assessments,” Kaspar explains, “both to better prepare students for the challenges of the mathematics required in engineering careers and to create more positive experiences in math.”


4 Responses to “Making STEM Education “Cool””
  1. As STEM educators, you are aware that if kids are going to become excited about becoming involved in STEM programming, they need a catalyst to turn them on to the whole concept.

    My name is Connor Snyder and I run a children’s theatre organization called Kids 4 Broadway. We conduct theatre camps for students ages 5-14 as well as a day long seminar training for SAC staff.

    A few months ago, one of our 21st CCLC clients in Lincoln, NE – Kathie Phillips – contacted me. Kathie indicated that most of their funding this year was coming in from NASA and other STEM related foundations. Would it be possible for me to come up with a concept for a Science and Arts Camp? (STEM/Arts)

    I enthusiastically accepted the challenge and completed a 45 page manuscript called “The Inventive Inn”.

    “The Inventive Inn”, is about a family in the midwest who own and operate a Bed and Breakfast.

    The kids come home from school one day, complaining about their homework – especially science. (“What do we need science for, anyway” etc) The dad tries to discuss with them the relevance of the subject…(“Without science, you’d have no cell phone, no TV, no I pads,” et al)

    A huge thunderstorm hits their town, and suddenly, one by one, 8 scientists appear at the Sandler home and discuss their inventions, how they came to create them, etc (e.g. Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Robert Goddard, Galileo etc) The children become totally motivated to grow up and become inventors and scientists.

    Kathie and I further brainstormed, and at the end of the performance, we’re planning on incorporating 15-20 more students who will come out as their favorite inventor/scientist (they’ll do the research during the camp week) and tell the audience what they invented.

    The camps are run during Spring Break and summer months, when the students are out of school.

    If you are interested in receiving a detailed syllabus of all three of our programs, just reply to this email and I’ll send that to you.

    Thanks -

    Connor Snyder
    Executive Director
    Kids 4 Broadway
    PO Box 122
    Kelseyville, CA 95451
    (707) 279-4497

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  2. Christine Rodriguez says:

    I have been a STEM teacher for 27 years, I have taught elementary thru college, after school programs, summer programs, science camps and Upward Bound. I was also a Research Technologist at the University of New Mexico, Cancer Research and & Treatment Center. I do not have a teaching degree, my degree is in Science and Math. I have emphasized the importance of science and math in everyday life, unfortunately my school and the state does not value this. Most emphasis is placed on reading, english, math and athletics. i have very many students who have gone on to pursue and education in the STEM fields. I am proud to say I educated them. I am very happy to see the President showing interest in STEM teaching.

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  1. [...] Press Club last week, where a diverse panel discussed the key issues and possible solutions.Show original No [...]

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  2. [...] as charlatans) of growth, economic development, and good public policy from the White House to the school-house to the work-house tout the importance of STEM education to the nation’s future. These [...]

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