Help students in the STEM game - science, technology, engineering, and math

Think Again: I attended a two local middle school science fairs recently, at a private school and public school and learned we need to do more to get youth interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Here is what I found out and how you can help.


Related reading

Help fill the skills gap; click here to learn how.

Applied to engineering, a lot of old adages are not as addled as they seem, like the one that says, “It's not whether you win or lose; it's how you play the game.”

I attended a two local middle school science fairs recently, at a private school and public school. In my tale of two science fairs, I learned we need to do more to get youth interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), specifically at public schools in seventh and eighth grades.

At the private school, I'd guess that household incomes were two or three times that of those of the public school. I know money and family incomes are not the only influences on educational success. Even so, private school science exhibits seemed of higher quality, and students seemed generally more knowledgeable.

Comparatively, students at the urban public school seemed socio-economically challenged. (Most Illinois public school funding comes from property taxes.) Yet, on the appointed afternoon, the public school gym was full of boisterous seventh and eighth grade students and their projects. Many exhibits were not pretty, elegant, or even scientifically sound. Still, these students were “in the game,” with encouragement from teachers, some parents (not enough), and others who happened by.

A flyer asked onlookers to ask students: Why did you pick this topic? What's the point? What is the variable? What is the control? How was the experiment performed? What were the results? What were three things learned?

People were doing that, and kids responded. Many were even excited, interested, and seemed to want more. Ballots counted and ribbons given for most creative/unique, most important current event, most complex, best of show, and for participation.

I have two observations and two suggestions.

One : The public school teachers and students did valiant work with the resources they had. A lot of spirit and interest were displayed.

Two : Schools, especially public schools, need more help with STEM.

First suggestion : Contact local public junior high school science teachers about how you can help encourage young minds about science and engineering.

Second suggestion : After you see first hand, contact your elected representatives and educate them about your observations of the present level of public school STEM funding.

Be among the growing numbers of success stories. Encourage youth about engineering. Get them in the game.

Related reading to close the skills gap -Post your suggestions, experiences, and useful links using the comments box below. Ever help out at a science or career fair? Share your experiences.

-The U.S. industrial sector has seen its fair share of changes and challenges during the past several decades. Throughout it all, however, manufacturers have been able to rely on a steady supply of fresh talent — particularly in the engineering sector — to fuel innovation and hone our competitive edge. Read more about how to close the skills gap.

-Search Kids, engineering, fun at Control Engineering .

Education and engineering - related links

Search on “skills gap’’ atop .

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences, collects and analyzes education data.

Illinois Loop (an informal group of about 200 parents, teachers, school board members and others, mostly in the suburbs around Chicago) provides updates on education news in Illinois.

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