STEM fields are emphasized in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards, and Texas classroom teachers are expected to gear their instruction to vertically-aligned standards addressing college and career readiness for their students.
Indiana is also preparing student for STEM careers through the I-STEM Resource Network, a state-wide network linking 19 higher-education institutions, life science partners, and stakeholders to ensure the state has enough STEM career graduates.
“We have over 40,000 Hoosiers employed in the STEM-related workforce, and by 2016 many of those positions will be vacated with $60,000-plus [salary] price tags,” said Teresa Morris, director of communications for I-STEM. “To make sure we don’t go stagnant, we include the businesses that will be required to fill their shortcomings and engage education and community stakeholders to take ownership in the process.”
BioCrossroads is one of those partners. This month BioCrossroads, Eli Lilly and Company, I-STEM Resource Network, and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) hosted a science summit for education, business, and community stakeholders. The summit was the kick-off to the “Year of Science 2010” adopted by the IDOE and an opportunity to introduce an inquiry-based science pilot program to be launched next fall.
Parent support is key
One of the most obvious and effective ways to help motivate students to pursue STEM careers is by encouraging parental support.
In a separate ASQ member survey, professional engineers noted that parents were the major influence in their decision to pursue a career in the field, with teachers placing a close second.
“We have two daughters in a great middle school in [Indiana’s] Cherry Creek School District,” said Sherry Knecht. “Both daughters are honors students with a strong interest in science, and my eighth grader has already been able to take courses in genetics and other areas of interest. Our seventh grader has sprinted forward in math. Our girls have the advantage of support at home—we have supplied them with bacteria testing kits, chemistry sets, electronic components, and other equipment. But I also think that the focus on college and careers by school personnel makes a big difference in the expectations that the kids have of themselves.”
What it all comes down to, said Travis Hartberger, a biology teacher and Advanced Placement chemistry chair in the Science Department at Washington, D.C.’s McKinley Technology High School, is understanding how STEM education fits into each individual school’s community.
“The truth is there are several models across the country,” he said. “While there are some parallels, interestingly, I think the approach has to fit the needs of your community, the larger goal for that community, as well as ample and appropriate learning styles to progressively improve student learning toward those goals.”
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