Archive for December, 2013

Promote STEM

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Hands are wringing over the low number of students doing well in STEM fields. It used to be any kind of science was good. Now Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math make up the 4 big ones. By the time a student is ready for college and career, choosing a STEM category has been repeated to him and her over and over.

It’s no longer enough to choose biology, often a woman’s preference. However, environmental jobs, in which your best chance is a life sciences degree, are broadcast all over the news. However, look at these statistics: women make up ½ the workforce but only 26% of the jobs in STEM fields; Blacks are 12% of the workforce, but only 6% have STEM field jobs; and Hispanics which make up 15% of workers only have 7% in STEM jobs. These statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau count science, technology, engineering, and math-related jobs as above average in terms of pay and benefits and wide-open in the variety of professions available.

Here’s a question. Want to achieve? Men and Asian groups do the best. The biggest hurdle for everyone else is access to a good education. Why do you think the U.S. Department of Education is emphasizing pre-school readiness? It’s a head start, one that encourages learning. The elementary school’s goal should be to prepare students for the rigors of higher education. Beginning in middle school, girls and minorities are encouraged to find out about and pursue the science fields.

Interest is a key factor. And here are ways to promote STEM. At the local community colleges in the California bay area, summer interactive seminars are devised to draw women and minority students. In the spring high schools organize a week for visits from professionals in physics, chemistry and other STEM specialties. At the University of Maryland, academic and social support is provided for women and minorities with majors in the STEM fields. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) provides opportunity for seventh grade girls to attend one of two week-long on-campus hands-on interactive sessions at seven different colleges in California. Each session is overseen by AAUW women volunteers. Women STEM professionals offer sessions and consult with the girls. This opportunity for girls is well-known and is replicated country-wide.

The STEM Education Coalition (www.stemedcoalition.org) is the site for more information that will help teachers advance science and math for all students.