Inspire and prepare. These words describe what teachers strive for every day. It’s why more and more educators see the importance of teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). If taught in an integrative fashion, these subjects help prepare students for the ever-changing technological world around them, develop 21st century and problem-solving skills critical to employability and career success, and so much more. Here are three reasons why early STEM education is essential.
An integrative STEM education today, develops skills for tomorrow
When all four STEM disciplines are equal on the playing field, it provides a process to solving problems. Understanding and experiencing how the STEM disciplines connect is key to subject integration. When students are exposed to opportunities to learn math and science with the concepts of technology and engineering in an interactive environment, communication and collaboration skills, as well as interest and competence, are attained. This contributes to a prepared society and may make higher education more achievable. Teaching integrative STEM creates the opportunity for students to apply math and science fundamentals to create prototypes and conduct experiments in order to make informed decisions. Students build upon their own experiences where they can obtain new science and math knowledge.
Engaging students in the investigation of authentic problems builds important 21st century skills while developing their abilities in critical thinking and problem-solving. Students practice applying what they learn, not simply memorizing it, which helps train them to handle problems that they may face in their professional careers, regardless of the industry. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, there is demand for workers with STEM competencies in all industries. That means building STEM lesson plans for high school students as well as younger students, no matter their future dreams, can help prepare them for career success.
Recognizing STEM careers is confusing to most students
Randstad North America found that students often lack an understanding of the types of fields categorized as STEM careers. Among the 11- to 17-year-olds who responded, 52 percent say they didn’t know anyone with a job in STEM. Given the number of STEM careers that exist today, these responses show there is a distinct misunderstanding about which positions fall into this category.
There are 26 million STEM jobs and not enough people to fill them
Developing STEM-related skills is even more critical given the current state of STEM jobs. According to the Brookings Institution, there are approximately 26 million STEM jobs, including positions in manufacturing, computer science, construction, and skilled labor. These jobs, especially those tied to Industry 4.0 innovation and advanced manufacturing, are expected to be integral to our future. Many employers report there are not enough skilled workers to fill current open positions. Exposing students to integrative STEM education early can pique their interest in these careers and help develop the skills they need to close this gap.
Looking for ways to bring STEM into your classroom? Explore Festo’s integrative STEM curriculum.