A sad fact: the United States is falling behind other industrialized nations in science and math education. An even sadder fact? This isn’t news. It’s been a reality in the American school system, and, as a consequence, the American job market, for years and years. In 2010, the National Academies ranked the United States 27th out of 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with science or engineering degrees. The Department of Labor expects the United States to have more than 2 million job openings in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) vocations by 2014.
The state of STEM education might look grim, but fortunately there are ways for students to immerse themselves in science and math when classroom time just isn’t enough. Looking for ways to inspire your students or your own child? Read on.
Founded by Microsoft, Digigirlz is dedicated to educating high school girls – and dispelling stereotypes – about careers in technology. Digigirlz Day events are held internationally throughout the year, giving young women an opportunity to meet Microsoft employees, work with computers and get career advice. They even offer weekend-long camps for a more immersive experience. Visit Microsoft for more.
U.S. Naval Academy
The undergraduate college of the Naval service offers a STEM summer camp for eighth through 11th graders on its Annapolis, Maryland campus. Attendees study cryptography, robotics, forensics, electronics and more, all in world-class facilities. U.S. News and World Report named the Naval Academy one of the best undergraduate engineering programs in the country, making it an ideal summer camp for students starting to think about college options.
Another offering from Microsoft, this competition encourages teen techies to use science skills in a way they might not get to in the classroom. The goal is to create life-changing technology. Winners and finalists in 2011 included a device that monitored bad driving habits, software that helped visually-impaired students take notes in class and video games that focused on environmental sustainability. In the same vein, check out the Technology Student Association and the technology-centric First.
Connect a Million Minds
This is a great resource for finding local science events on the fly. Simply type in your zip code and a keyword, say, “physics” or “robotics,” and you get a list of events perfect for your budding scientists.
Or you can talk to teens in their language. NASA has its own free STEM video game called Moonbase Alpha. In it, players work to restore power and oxygen to a futuristic lunar environment before a deadly meteor strikes. It’s part of NASA’s Learning Technologies project and can be found at www.virtualheroes.com/moonwalk.
What STEM trends do you notice in your own school? Science and math teachers: how do you encourage students to further their studies?