By Jill “MamaBug” Frier
As a parent of school age children, you’ve probably heard people touting the wonders and importance of STEM education for kids. But what is STEM and why is it so important for your kid to get up to speed on it? STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. A good understanding of these areas of study can help your child have a better understanding of how our world works today and give them an edge when then eventually enter the workforce as an adult.
Why STEM Subjects Are Important
STEM learning can help build a child’s critical thinking skills, sense of curiosity, creativity, and an understanding of technology and the scientific method while discovering new things. STEM education typically presents real-world scenarios that kids can work on, study and solve with a hands-on, scientific approach. These skills are important elements of “learning how to learn,” which is a critical element of most solution-oriented, not to mention higher paying, jobs.
A study by the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that occupations involving STEM are growing at 17 percent, while occupations in other fields are growing at less than 10 percent. The study also showed that people who have a degree in a STEM field generally have a higher income than those who are involved in other careers. People in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math play an essential role in sustaining the current U.S. economy, and will likely remain a critical component well into the future.
Bottom line, a focus on STEM education gives kids the edge they need to flourish in growing career fields. The U.S. Department of Labor’s workforce projections show that nine of the 10 fastest growing occupations that require a college degree will also demand significant scientific or mathematical training.
A World of Rapidly Changing Technology
As science and technology have become increasingly more important in our world, kids will need STEM skills to succeed more than ever before. STEM is an essential part of everything we do every day. Science is key to everything around us, from medicine, to the products we use, to understanding the natural world. The technology to understand and develop that science is constantly evolving and expanding into every aspect of our daily lives. And engineering is the basic foundation not only for building infrastructure, like roads, bridges, and buildings, but also for the way organizations, businesses and governments operate and become continually more efficient.
When interviewed by the We Are Teachers website, James Brown, executive director of the STEM Education Coalition in Washington, D.C., and a nuclear engineer by training, explained, “What binds together the STEM movement is the notion of modern skills. Employers talk about problem-solving. Society requires problem-solving. Doing your taxes requires problem-solving. Those are the types of skills that really matter. A practicing engineer will tell you, ‘I didn’t use the calculus I learned to solve problems on paper, but the way it taught me to solve problems and to think about problems was really important.”
STEM Education Opportunities for Your Child
STEM classes can help kids be better problem solvers, more creative thinkers, and better at observing and thinking about the world around them, rather than simply memorizing facts. STEM education helps drive the inventors, problem-solvers and innovators of the future. And a good STEM program finds ways to make math and science important concepts that are fun and interesting for kids
STEM educational opportunities are more widely available than ever. Parents and teachers can find programs, classes, camps, and museums that focus on educational programs and activities to encourage and develop a better understanding of STEM for kids. Here are a few of the many organizations around the Valley that offer STEM programs and activities to inspire kids of all ages:
• The Arizona STEM Network, led by Science Foundation Arizona. This non-profit organization was created as a collaboration between Arizona businesses, educators, government, and philanthropic organizations. The Arizona STEM Network focuses on a common agenda to graduate more Arizona students prepared for the global economy.
• Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence. This organization exposes kids to STEM-related activities during out-of-school time, to allow them to learn experientially. Kids engage in hands-on activities that require the practical but fun application of concepts learned in the classroom, in an after school environment.
• Arizona STEM Adventure. This all-volunteer run event brings together students and professionals to give kids a hands on experience with a STEM professional and motivate students to enter the world of STEM. The next Arizona STEM Adventure will take place on November 16, 2019, at the Pima Community College, Northwest Campus.
There are loads of resources in the Phoenix area to help make STEM education fun and relevant to your children. Do your homework and take steps to get your kids interested in science, technology, engineering, and math – these subjects are important for everyone’s future. And be sure to check out Ladybug’s Blog (www.LadybugsBlog.com) for more articles and recommendations for fun, educational and interesting things to do with kids everywhere in Arizona!