STEM for All: Everyone’s Responsibility
Emilie and Nolan exploring why raisins float
“STEM,” an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, has become a frequent buzzword across the country and internationally. Originally coined by Dr. Judith Ramaley of the National Science Foundation in 2001, it now seems that STEM is everywhere. Elementary schools and high schools boast about their STEM programming. Arts camps now bring in “STEAM” (STEM + Arts) experiences for their campers. There is much talk about STEM readiness and competition in global markets. While STEM may seem to be on the right track now, the reality is that students in groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields still need support and opportunities to make it to STEM careers. The National Science Foundation statistics show that women, blacks, and Hispanics do not have representation in holding STEM degrees or careers that correlate with their share of the US population.
To solve the problems of the future and to power that workforce, we need the perspectives and creativity of all members of our society, not just the traditional groups that dominate STEM. But how do we get there? The good news is that some efforts are already proving to be beneficial. Studies show that students’ participation in STEM-related clubs and science fairs positively affect post-secondary admissions and STEM major selections. Also, students overall, and especially from under-represented groups, who attend special STEM high schools are more likely to pursue a STEM degree in college.
For high school students in a non-STEM school, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors need to play a vital role in getting students on the right track. With the increased focus on graduation rates, high school students may be encouraged to drop ‘harder’ academic sequences – meeting the minimum graduation requirements and not taking four years of math and science. The reality is that if a student has not taken four years of both math and science, their likelihood of attending college drops and they are not prepared to pursue a STEM major. Not every STEM career is engineering or requires a PhD – there is an increasing need for entry-level computer programmers and technical workers that have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in STEM. Young people often enter college unsure of what their major will be, but by coaching them to drop math and science, we are whittling down their options and preventing them from being able to choose STEM.
While parents, teachers and guidance counselors are on the front lines, local community organizations, museums, and colleges offer additional supports to get students interested and working in STEM. By engaging students of all ages in these fields outside of school, we can help encourage their work in school to persist in the STEM pipeline. The Mercy College Center for STEM Education has partnered with Con Edison and the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation to bring 65 students from high-need schools to the Saturday STEM Academy. This four-week program on Mercy College’s Dobbs Ferry campus not only provides fun, age-appropriate STEM learning presented by experienced educators, but also a dose of college readiness programming, encouraging students to see themselves in college. The Saturday STEM Academy is open to the public for a fee and has classes for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Through this program, Mercy College is working on driving STEM interest in young people, hoping to encourage them to be the STEM professionals of the future. #
Drs. Amanda M. Gunning and Meghan E. Marrero are Co-Directors of the Mercy College Center for STEM Education. Find them at www.mercy.edu/stem-learning or on social media @mercy_stem.