What is STEM and Why Does It Matter for Your Child’s Education?
The term STEM has grown in prominence in the news and in articles across the United States, but not everyone knows what STEM is, what the acronym stands for, or what its purpose is. As a teacher, I have tried to follow the development and implementation of STEM topics within the classroom. In this article, we will look at what STEM is and why it is important.
Defining what STEM is
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and its focus is to foster student experience and interest in these fields. While there is no universal definition for STEM, economist for the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Dennis Vilorio says “[e]xperts generally do agree… that STEM workers use their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, or math to try to understand how the world works and to solve problems.”
According to Vilorio, one reason the emphasis on STEM has increased is that STEM-related jobs are projected to grow exponentially. In order to prepare the next generation for those jobs, students’ curricula need to have an increased focus on science, technology, engineering, and math.
One goal of STEM is to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math with other school courses and with each other. Instead of learning each topic in isolation, the focus is integration. The possibilities are endless, and teaching students across subjects prepares students better for life outside of school and makes learning more meaningful. Rarely do we use any school subject in complete isolation in our everyday lives.
What are Some Examples of STEM Jobs?
- Designing blueprints for a building integrates math, engineering, and art, as students calculate proportions, apply engineering principles to make decisions about the structure of the building, and then draw out the plans.
- Creating a presentation explaining the impact pollution has on the environment integrates science, technology, and English. Students research environmental factors, use computers and presentation software, and practice their speech skills.
Another goal of STEM is to develop students’ critical and creative thinking skills. A student who has the ability to look at a problem from different angles is more likely to solve the problem and possibly create a new method in the process.
Within the workfield, STEM skills help workers use critical and creative thinking “in problem solving to detect mistakes, gather relevant information, and understand how different parts or systems interact with each other” (STEM 101: Intro to tomorrow’s jobs). These are skills that students can develop by working on complex problems or projects during both primary and secondary education.
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