The gap between available jobs and students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is expected to grow to 2.4 million unfilled positions in five years. Unfortunately, by the time many students arrive in high school, STEM subjects are perceived as too boring or too intimidating to study.
Mind the Gap! The US is not preparing enough enough students to fill STEM careers.
Barbara McAllister, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Planning at Intel Corporation, explains that the lack of student interest in STEM topics is linked to the social acceptability of under-performing in math and science. “It is not OK to say, ‘I’m not good at reading or talking,’ but it is OK to say, ‘I’m not good at math.’ And when parents (and others) say they weren’t good at math either—sometimes to make their struggling children feel better—they inadvertently give kids permission to quit. And kids do—in droves.” This attrition begins early, when students begin to tackle unfamiliar concepts in elementary school. Fortunately, parents’ influence can be a key to shifting the mindset around STEM.
According to the New York Times, less than 13 percent of college students major in STEM. These students may not necessarily have a predisposition to excel in STEM, but are almost always “the most well-prepared and persistent students, who often come from families where encouragement and enrichment are fundamental.” Parents need not work for NASA or be a computer scientist to play a significant role in their child’s relationship with STEM. This is because the process of learning how to experiment with STEM concepts is more critical than memorizing STEM facts. McAllister describes the essential role families play, “It takes a family and social support network, not just great teachers, to learn STEM and stay with it long-term, just as it requires years of practice, discipline, support, and coaches to master a sport.”
Winning Hearts is One Solution: the STEM Activity App
It is through the hearts, not the heads, of students that teachers and families can foster enthusiasm for STEM learning. The Aspire Institute addresses this dilemma with the STEM Activity App, a free web application designed to foster positive STEM-related interactions between students and their families. The app provides engaging activities for families and encourages teachers to issue a Weekly STEM Challenge for students to complete at home.
The first STEM Activity App challenge starts Monday, March 24th. Teachers and families, sign up today!
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