As our world becomes more technologically advanced, the demand increases for more people to fill science, technology, engineering, and math jobs. As a result, STEM education has exploded over the last decade as institutions try to get more students into the STEM pipeline. STEM exposure is not just limited to the classroom, and as we grow the STEM pipeline, we will find STEM practices happening in more locations.
Here are five places where you can find STEM education happening:
In 2013, the Next Generation Science Standards were released and now, more states and districts have implemented them or have created their own standards based on them. These standards are different than other historically used science standards because they introduced engineering into the classroom, and they are based on students learning through doing. With these standards and other STEM-related standards (e.g. CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards), schools have invested more resources in teaching STEM topics through hands-on and inquiry-based methodologies, that present STEM ideas through real-world relevant examples.
Libraries have become an excellent place to host STEM learning. For one, libraries contain literature related to science, technology, engineering, and math ideas. In recent history, some libraries have become more technical, setting up makerspaces with items like 3D printers for their community. Many libraries do STEM outreach programs for the youth in their community as well through summer camps and afterschool programs. With over 17,000 public library locations throughout the country, there is a great opportunity to bring STEM education in front of more populations.
Museums and Zoos
Museums are probably one of the first places where informal STEM education occurred. According to the American Scientist, an overwhelming amount of science in learned outside of school. This is because the average American only spends less than 5% of their life in classrooms. Institutions like museums and zoos give access to STEM learning to people of all age levels. Additionally, museums and zoos are excellent places to engage in real-world experiences of STEM fields. Interpretations, demonstrations, and exploring exhibits give learners access to high-quality STEM learning outside of the traditional classroom.
More than 1,000 YMCAs nationwide have STEM activities that help kids learn how to solve problems and develop critical-thinking skills. Under the STEM for All program, the YMCA incorporates fair and equitable practices into STEM programming to promote gender equity in STEM. YMCAs offer everything from robotics programs to engineering design challenges.
Traditionally, we think of college as a space for post-secondary education. When in fact, there is a lot of work in K-12 STEM education outreach being done at colleges and universities. Many colleges throughout the country use their undergraduates to conduct STEM outreach in their local communities. These relationships between the colleges and the community help both the undergraduates and the K-12 student population. Undergraduates have an opportunity to take learnings from their STEM majors and share them with K-12 students, showing real-world examples of STEM majors and careers to young students while also giving undergraduates opportunities to practice conveying technical concepts (an important skill for any scientist or engineer!). Additionally, colleges can use STEM outreach as a way of recruitment for the college. Many colleges hosting summer STEM camps to bring young students onto the campus.
Where else is STEM education happening in your community? Let us know in the comments below!