Investing in STEM EducationRecently the Georgia Institute of Technology working with the Griffin-Spalding County School System received a grant from the National Science Foundation. Totaling 7.3 million dollars, the foundation provided this money with the specific purpose of developing the education of middle and high school students in STEM fields. This grant, to be spread over five years, is intended to aid students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as they prepare for postsecondary education and the eventual workforce.
The National Science Foundation's generosity comes at a time when many STEM programs are desperately in need of a kick-start to spread more evenly across the United States. Originally intended to prepare students wishing to study STEM-related careers after high school, there are approximately 100 schools that specialize in the STEM subjects. Students at these schools have the opportunity to actively engage in these subject areas, but the majority of the nation's students do not have the option to attend a STEM school.
In fact, many schools are not even teaching science, technology, engineering, and science on a daily basis. For example, many elementary teachers admit to only teaching science two days a week rather than exposing students to the subject regularly. A STEM education can benefit many different types of students when integrated smoothly into school curriculum. Not only will children become more well-rounded students, but they will also begin earning more training in these areas that will soon need more skilled technicians in the workforce.
With the right financial and educational backing, STEM students have the opportunity to collaborate with other students using a myriad of technological devices. Fully integrated STEM education programs allow students to use technologies such as interactive white boards, simulation programs, handheld data collection devices, and manipulative molecules throughout their learning processes.
Students in STEM programs are encouraged to take control of their educations by investigating problems and testing theories, keeping these students actively engaged in their educational endeavors. By being provided with specialized professional-level technologies and application, students are given the responsibility and confidence to fully participate in their educations based on real-life scenarios.
The National Science Foundation's grant will pair Griffin-Spalding students with Georgia Tech faculty as they experiment with advanced manufacturing tools, including manipulating robots and creating three dimensional products using computer design and 3-D printers. This collaboration will not only give these STEM students a valuable educational experience by seeing their creative works come to life, it will also train them for the ever-more-internationally-competitive job fields of science and engineering.
Students in the United States continue to choose careers not based in the STEM subject areas, producing fewer and fewer scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and computer specialists. As the nation and the world continue to invent and develop more and more technologically advanced software and programs necessary to daily life, more and more workers in these fields will be required to maintain and repair these technologies. However, since few students are choosing to study and work in these areas, there is a growing need in the United States for more workers.
If workers in the United States do not handle these jobs, they must be outsourced to workers from international countries who have the skills required. Students in this nation are falling behind many international countries in the areas of math and science, and STEM programs are one way to help bridge this gap and make up for lost time and learning. Students must have the ability to think critically and be able to work both independently and as part of a team, and a STEM education can help provide these skills to the nation's students.
A STEM education introduces students to the possibility of working in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at an early age in middle school and high school. Students who might otherwise never consider the STEM subject areas can gain exposure through these programs and can possibly find a new interest and direction for their futures. Regardless of whether a STEM-educated student chooses a STEM-related career, the skills gained from the program and hands-on training in experimenting and reporting those findings can be translated to many occupations beyond the traditional science-related field.
Although the National Science Foundation's grant to the Georgia schools is one positive step in the direction of more fully integrating the STEM program into the nation's schools, it is just a small piece of the ever-growing need to enhance the learning of the country's students. With more funding and more implementation of a STEM education in nationwide schools, the country's students will have more and better chances to succeed in the coming global workplace.