Professionals who spend any time in academics or grant-writing may have noticed that 2012 has become the year of STEM. More precisely, it has become the year of talking about STEM. That buzzword has been flying around so aggressively that it is now common to the vocabulary of educators from kindergarten through graduate school. With such excitement surrounding that acronym, it has begun to leak out into every day society, and people all over America are starting to ask, "What the heck is STEM, anyway?"
Technically speaking, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. That definition doesn't even begin to do it justice. Those of us who live STEM, have realized that the vision conjured up by those words are nowhere near indicative of the excitement those subjects invoke. Unofficially, STEM is the declaration that we, as a population, need to bring creativity, passion and art to our academics. The STEM movement is a progression toward blended learning and teaching students how to integrate the scientific method into their everyday lives. It's the passionate manifesto that computational thinking needs to begin right along side shapes and phonics. STEM is the realization that math is embedded into the beauty of a daisy and the functionality of the placement of its leaves.
Even as the President's Council highlights the "need for approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade", congress is prepared to cut funding for science and technology in schools. This is extremely surprising, considering that 93 percent of parents believe that STEM education should be a priority in the United States.
With 51 percent of parents believing that our schools are failing to make STEM education a priority, a handful of organizations have taken it upon themselves to pick up the slack. National entities like Change the Equation are developing resources to entice students and educators to look further into the amazing opportunities that STEM provides. Individuals like Vi Hart are using YouTube to illustrate just how romantically hysterical the mathematical universe can be. Role Model networks like FabFems are providing support for women and non-traditional individuals who are often dissuaded from the STEM disciplines when they are left wanting for professional exemplars. Local organizations like Thinkersmith, are taking programs directly to their neighborhood schools, to alleviate the cost and subject-fear which typically snip STEM lessons from the classroom.
Now that you know what STEM means, I invite you to learn more about the many exciting and inspiring methods that can be used to pique interest in these careers again. Help us banish the negative connotations surrounding these subjects. The fight is far from over, but the fact that you know what STEM means is a positive indicator that we are taking steps in the right direction.
Find a STEM Organization in your area by searching the NGCP Program Directory.