What is STEM Education, Anyways?

There is a lot of talk about “STEM Education” and it’s coming from all directions. Educators and school administrators are being asked by parents, education leaders, and most importantly, industry leaders to make it a top priority to boost these skills from the first day of school and onward. But that’s not all – tech industry leaders are investing into programs and even Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau are making it part of their own agendas to increase funding for programs and opportunities for youth. But what really is STEM Education, anyways? Let’s break it down:

  1. STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEM Education emphasizes engagement with students across all of these subjects, and most of the time, the focus is on integrating these subjects in various ways. For example, a science lesson may incorporate math and engineering or a math lesson that incorporates the use of technology. The combinations are truly endless and they are also incredibly engaging for students. STEM education basically brings curriculum and moves it into the real-world and students notice that and they love it.
  2. So why does it matter? STEM careers and the economy is the short answer to this question. Diving deeper, STEM careers are in high demand and there aren’t enough people to fill them. When we think “STEM careers” a few things may come to mind: engineer, doctor, scientist, web developer, and data researcher may come to mind; but STEM careers is actually a word that describes hundreds of career paths – that also lead to a great salary too! Recent reports from the White House and many other players in the education world drive to prepare current students for future careers. Just before the holidays, the Financial Post published an article that discusses five investment trends to look out for in the New Year – and a push for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education initiatives was high amongst the list. The article spoke greatly to the value that STEM education brings to the future job market, as well as the value of creating innovative engineers and developers to boost the economy. In fact, they refer to STEM education as a “very safe investment – a no-brainer – and one that should get started right away”.
  3. It’s not just about boosting the economy! STEM Education helps in the development of “soft-skills” that are intrinsically important to every job your kid will ever have. Students are becoming free to create their own research questions; work with collaborative groups; conduct their own experiments, make mistakes, and learn from them; and even draw connections between multiple subjects. STEM Wire describes a case study of Wake NC State University STEM Early College High School. Meaningful and deep learning on the part of the students were the biggest changes observed by the educators over earlier groups of pupils. The students asked more questions; drew more connections between concepts and engaged with the material more. The changes seen in the case study are largely due to the self-exploratory nature of STEM education.
  4. STEM Education creates future problem solvers! Scholastic believes that the “Science” and “Engineering” in STEM provides a process that allows students to investigate into multiple topics and questions. The Scientific Method and Engineering Process are a step-by-step processes used by students to ask questions, test ideas, and draw conclusions on their own. The students’ conclusions often come from drawing connections between multiple subjects and discussions with their peer groups. Overall, if you have a student going through STEM Education programming you are going to see these skills develop organically:
  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Empathy
  • Collaboration
  • Ability to Connect Multiple Ideas
  • Resilience

If you want to know more about how these soft skills and benefits develop please visit one of our most popular articles: The Immediate Value of STEM Education. If you want to get your kids or students engaged with STEM education in a fun and effective way, please visit STEM Village to learn more and start a free trial today.

Our children deserve the power of knowledge and the confidence to learn. Join the conversation with STEM Village on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was written by Erin Carmody, an experienced educator, consultant, and Content Manager at STEM Village.