STEM education is more important now than ever before! Not only does it prepare students for one of the fastest growing job sectors in the country, but it also provides an intellectual foundation of inquiry, analysis, and problem solving. Even for students who go on to follow career paths in other areas, it is still beneficial for every student to be exposed to a strong STEM education early on so they can understand the world around them and what aspects of STEM interests them the most.
STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Some people prefer to use the acronym STEAM which includes Art. As such, STEM education focuses on building knowledge and skills in these areas of study. But STEM education isn’t just studying subjects like biology or calculus in order to prepare for medical school. It’s about giving students the tools to think analytically about the world, through concepts like the scientific method, the principles of design, and basic coding skills.
STEM education ensures that all students, not just those who go on to work in the field, leave school with the skills to understand science and technology. Within the STEM category, computer science accounts for nearly two thirds of new STEM jobs expected to be created in the next several years. With only 47% of high schools teaching computer science, here is why more schools should be prioritizing access to STEM education.
Improving access to high quality STEM education is one of the first steps to addressing inequities in STEM-related career fields. Unfortunately, schools across the nation have drastically different access to STEM education programs thanks to inequalities in funding and accessibility. It’s up to schools to notice and advocate for structural equity in STEM programs, so that all students have the opportunity to learn about and explore STEM career paths. Improving STEM equity means educating ourselves about how to recognize and address implicit bias, as well as supporting programs like Girls Who Code, which is devoted to providing young girls with coding education to address gender and racial disparities in computer science. Access to STEM education helps keep students engaged in the subject, which is especially important since the majority of students who are interested in STEM careers at the start of high school finish school no longer interested in pursuing those fields.
Preparing students for careers in STEM has never been more important. The US already suffers from shortages of educated workers in many STEM fields, and the number of new STEM jobs is predicted to grow at more than double the rate of non-STEM jobs in the next eight years. In order for our young workforce to meet the growing demand for employees in fields like web development, medicine, and engineering, they need a solid and accessible STEM foundation. Programs that introduce students to computer science through block-based coding programs like Scratch and Unruly Splats help build a strong STEM foundation from elementary school on. Studies show that students who have access to computer science classes in high school are far more likely to major in the subject. With only 11% of STEM bachelor’s degrees being in computer science, this proves just how important early education is to set students up for career success in STEM!
The upheaval of the pandemic that began in 2020 showed us all just how important emotional resilience is. Without coping skills, it is even more challenging to push through difficult times and stay focused on personal goals. STEM education teaches students the foundational skills of any career, but it also helps students learn soft skills, which are vital for anyone who wants to work in STEM or any other career field.
Soft skills include things like:
Our Social and Emotional Learning activities use STEM concepts to foster soft skills like the ones listed above.
Not every school has the resources for a teacher devoted to STEM education and even if it does, a whole STEM initiative should not fall on one teacher. Schools can support STEM initiatives by incorporating STEM-related material into their current curriculum. Unruly Splats combines coding and active play with many resources that provide opportunities for cross-curricular coding. For example, we’ve created a game called Place Value that introduces the math concept of place values while also exposing students to block-based coding.
Students of all ages respond well to educational games that make learning more fun. You can turn STEM concepts into fun, physically active games with our Unruly Splats. Unruly Splats introduce kids to the basics of coding through physically active games. Gamifying STEM education comes with the bonus of addressing another serious issue in education— the play deficit, or the lack of physical education in children, especially since the pandemic began. Play is tremendously important for students’ physical and social development. Using Unruly Splats, students can learn the basics of coding while creating and playing their own physically active games! For example, our Stomp Madness event encouraged school-wide participation in our fun, physically active games, while also fighting playspace inequity with nonprofit KABOOM!.
Today’s students need us to invest in a strong foundation of STEM education so that they are prepared for the future job opportunities and life in general. With these tips, you can incorporate STEM concepts into your school and help set your students up for success. If this article was helpful for you, you should check out this guide, which shares four tips for implementing STEM education in your school district.