School Year

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STEM taking schools by storm

An increased focus on STEM education is one of the most influential initiatives to reach schools in recent years. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The world has become increasingly complex and competitive, and today's youth need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to evaluate ideas and turn them into productive applications. These are two of the key hallmarks of STEM.

According to the National Science Foundation, STEM subjects include chemistry, computer and information technology science, engineering, geosciences, life sciences, mathematical sciences, physics and astronomy, social sciences (anthropology, economics, psychology and sociology), and STEM education and learning research.

Recognizing that more and more students are gravitating toward STEM-focused fields and that projected STEM job rates are rising steadily, schools have begun to beef up their offerings with regard to STEM subjects. Jobs in mathematics, computer system analysis, systems software, and biomedical engineering are just some of the careers in which anywhere from a 15 to 62 percent increase between 2010 and 2020 is predicted, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Individuals may believe that STEM study begins in high school, but the success of older students in STEM subjects is often shaped much earlier on. That's why parents and educators can do much to cultivate an interest in natural and social sciences as well as in math as early as possible. Here are a few ideas to do just that.

• Encourage participation in the community. Various national clubs and science-based organizations have begun to pay more attention to STEM and offer activities that foster a greater love of science, engineering and math. By joining such clubs and organizations, students can learn more about these subjects and reinforce their enjoyment.

• Set up an internship or meet-and-greet. Take students to STEM-centered places of employment so they can get a firsthand experience from within the STEM trenches. Provide opportunities for students to chat with people in the field and ask questions about the type of schooling necessary to pursue a particular degree, and if any hobbies and other activities promote STEM learning.

• Investigate school-based opportunities. Schools are broadening course offerings and also establishing STEM-based clubs. Students have the opportunity to get involved with other like-minded classmates. If a club isn't already available, a teacher or a parent can consider volunteering to serve as the head of the club.

STEM is a hot topic of discussion in the world of education. Students can expect to get plenty of exposure to science- and math-related topics both inside and out of the classroom.