September 9, 2011
STEM-schools

STEM: This is Not Your Mother’s Education

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Two weeks into school and my sixth grader is writing a report on Cuba, while my fourth grader is building (and cooking in) a solar oven. Wow! Just WOW!

In my experience, the first MONTH of school is spent reviewing what they should have learned in the previous grade. Not here. This is our first year at the new STEM Magnet Lab School in Northglenn, Colo.

Science+Technology+Engineering+Math=STEM

It’s a K-8 school and the curriculum focuses and integrates those subjects into everything they study – even art, PE, music and language arts. This is definitely not the education I grew up with. It reaches far beyond the standard curriculum and really challenges the students. A challenge, near as I can tell, that the students enjoy and more than step up to.

A Hands-On, Challenging Environment

I’m in marketing and my husband is in politics so we were a bit apprehensive about enrolling our children in a school with a curriculum that is … ahem … not our strong suit. Initially our reasons for choosing STEM revolved around a more hands-on approach (good for our high-energy one who has a hard time focusing) and a more challenging environment (good for our son who has never really had to work very hard … yet). While those reasons still hold true, my belief in a STEM education has become stronger and more informed.

Lots of Jobs to Fill

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. will have more than 1.2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018. Unfortunately, it’s predicted there will be a significant shortage of qualified college graduates to fill them. Bummer!

STEM is Key to America’s Greatness

Recently Thomas Friedman was interviewed about his book “That Used To Be Us.” A few things he said in that interview reinforced my choice for a STEM education for our boys, the next generation. He urges parents to encourage kids to pursue science, technology and engineering, and to use their creativity to invent things and solve problems. Friedman claims a focus on technology, education, and invention is critical to restoring our greatness as a nation. So now my choosing STEM also feels like an act of patriotism.

STEM Education Should Start Earlier

This week Microsoft released the findings of a survey about why students choose, or don’t choose, STEM. This finding struck me: More than three-quarters of college students chose to study a STEM field in high school, while just 20 percent decided in middle school. For me, this only reinforces that an early STEM education is vital. Why wait until high school to offer a STEM education? For those who choose it, STEM can start in kindergarten!

I’m still new to this whole STEM thing and I’m learning more everyday. STEM may not be the right choice for everyone. All I know is that when someone now asks my kids’ about school, their faces light up and the energy they have when describing their projects is undeniable. I’m a believer!

How about you? What’s your experience with STEM?

 

 

About the author:

Sandra Bergman is an overworked, underpaid mother of two rambunctious boys. In her free time she manages the web and social media presence for Front Range Community College.

Comments:

September 09, 2011 Michaele C.

This is so interesting, Sandra. I was just speaking to someone this week about the impending shortage of college graduates in fields such as engineering, technology, science–it’s a scary situation amid times when we really need people solving big world problems (i.e. energy crisis). Your sons’ new school sounds fantastic. Great for you guys for supporting your boys as they explore their strengths in these highly valuable areas!

    September 09, 2011 Sandra Bergman

    Thanks Michaele! Yeah, it’s kind of a frightening to think about how our county is falling so far behind in these areas. I just hope we have the political fortitude and education funding to turn it around.

October 11, 2011 Cindy

Hi,
I am new to the STEM curriculum but in a slightly different way. I started teaching at an engineering magnet school this year. I was an art teacher who has recently been taking digital media course, which has led me to being the video game and web design teacher at a pre ib magnet middle school. I am working on a steep learning curve right now practically building my courses from the ground up! I have mostly classes packed with boys! I am also the mother of two boys (one in middle school, regretting that I didn’t enroll him here) I see the effects first hand the power of this curriculum. The boys are fully engaged (and the girls)! I am a true believer through first hand experience!

    October 12, 2011 Sandra Bergman

    Hi Cindy –

    So interesting to hear how you ended up in the STEM world. I couldn’t agree with you more! The kids are so engaged in their work like nothing I’ve seen before. I’ve been curious what teaching STEM is like. It seems to be very different from a traditional curriculum, requiring teachers to bring additional skills and knowledge to their approach. Have you found that to be the case?