The STEM acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and these disciplines have been identified as the foundation of innovation and economic growth in the United States (U.S.). Technology companies, engineering service firms and scientific research organizations contribute heavily to the country’s wealth and security. However, government agencies like the National Science Foundation noted the decline of the unique skill set that is needed to keep the U.S. as a top market for innovative products and services. Recently, government agencies at the federal, state and local levels have joined forces to promote technical literacy at all education levels. Here are some examples of the promotion of technical literacy within early childhood development, primary schools and secondary schools.
Early Childhood Development of Math and Science Skills
Findings of education researchers have resulted in vast improvements in the ways that teachers, parents and local communities approach the early learning environment. For instance, educators now realize the importance of experiential learning opportunities to capture a student’s attention and cement learning concepts. The application of experientially based curricula is a trend that has been adopted by early childhood educators as well as those who teach students at the university level. Preschool instructors currently use the technique in a variety of ways to introduce integrated math and science concepts to their young students. Some of these teachers create outdoor classrooms where they allow their students to investigate and collect natural objects like rocks, flowers or bugs; the teachers then encourage their children to think about mathematical concepts as they add to their collection or lose some of their finds. Educators have found that these outdoors experiences help children to remember traditional classroom instruction about the basics of math and science. The ideal result of this new, interactive approach to early learning is that preschool and kindergarten age students are better prepared to learn more advanced math and science concepts at the primary school level.
Bringing a Technical Perspective to Primary School Education
Primary school teachers are getting widespread support for their efforts to incorporate age appropriate, technical topics into their classroom discussions. Traditionally, they have used specially crafted activities for their students as a basis to ask them questions about any number of subjects. Now the emphasis is on asking questions about design and experimentation that lead to absorption of math, science and engineering principles. Parents, community organizations and local businesses have been enlisted to help these educators in as many ways as possible to promote activities for early technical literacy through the Educate to Innovate Initiative. Even public universities help promote the initiative by offering primary school teachers additional, subject specific training.
Secondary Schools Specialize in STEM
When students reach their middle and high school years, many are ready to focus most of their academic schedules to the pursuit of science, technology, engineering and math topics. Teachers of middle school students include technical projects into their lesson plans so that students can conduct guided research, experiments and prototyping. Many of the country’s high schools like High Technology High School in New Jersey and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia are known to be centers of academic excellence for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Many high schools that do not have a technical specialty still offer students advanced placement courses in math and science.
Statistics show that many students who enroll in technical or scientific related majors at the university level often change majors because they find the work too challenging. The early childhood, primary school and secondary school STEM related course work helps to make sure that students are prepared to enter technical programs at the university level without heavy reliance on remedial training.