Schools may be out for summer, but STEM education efforts and investments are going strong.
STEM investments are critical for a number of reasons. First, many of the jobs today’s K-12 students will hold in the future don’t exist yet, and nearly all of them are predicted to require solid STEM skills. Second, there are large gender and racial gaps in the STEM workplace. These gaps start as early as middle school, when girls and minorities stop engaging with STEM lessons and extra-curricular activities.
Some educators seem to have it figured out, and they’re doing their part to fill the STEM pipeline with engaging lessons that grab students’ attention with real-world relevance. But in order to do this consistently, broad-scale investments, including funding, time, and advocacy, are needed.
Here’s the latest:
Carnegie Science Center educators have developed a STEM curriculum with Girl Up designed to inspire participants in Girl Up’s 2,200 clubs in 103 countries to consider careers in STEM fields.
The curriculum is part of a program supported by BNY Mellon to encourage Girl Up participants to consider STEM careers, introduce them to female STEM role models, and educate them on applying STEM solutions to real-world problems. It is the first large-scale project Girl Up has undertaken to involve its young leaders in STEM, and the goal of the program is to educate, inspire, and engage girls in STEM for social good. The curriculum developed by the Science Center will introduce girls to design thinking, the scientific method, and problem-solving skills fundamental to STEM and other fields. Girl Up leaders seek to reduce the gender gap in STEM fields, where men are more likely to pursue careers.
“The gender gap in STEM starts early, with many girls not being encouraged to pursue STEM careers. Girl Up’s partnership with BNY Mellon and Carnegie Science Center helps bridge that gap with an innovative approach that focuses on human-centered design thinking, while connecting girls to how STEM can be used to make a difference in the world,” says Anna Blue, Girl Up executive director.
The Girl Up STEM curriculum includes 10 activities that girls will be able to participate in with their Clubs. Once they complete the activities, they can participate in a STEM challenge for social good. Also, STEM boot camps that will take place this fall around the nation will include talks by local female STEM leaders who will encourage the girls to get involved in STEM in their communities. Girls will participate in hands-on skills-based training that provides STEM solutions for issues taking place in their communities.
Ann Metzger, the Henry Buhl, Jr., co-director of Carnegie Science Center, says developing this curriculum fits in with the Science Center’s efforts to increase the number of women pursuing STEM jobs. “We are gratified and honored that Girl Up chose us to participate in this important project,” Metzger says. “Girl Up has a proven record in providing leadership training for girls, and we are excited that its future programming will strengthen girls’ STEM skills. This will give girls more tools they can use to improve their futures and the futures of their communities.”
In other news, Microsoft Philanthropies announced a new partnership with the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) in which Microsoft will provide $2 million over three years to help CSTA build a stronger community to better serve computer science teachers.
“We’re thrilled that students of all ages are discovering the exciting–and critical–field of computer science. From the Hour of Code, to Minecraft Education, and even Advanced Placement Computer Sciences courses, participation rates are expanding,” says Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and lead for Microsoft Philanthropies, in a LinkedIn post. “This surge of student interest, combined with the premium our economy places on technology skill of all kinds, requires us to do all we can to ensure every student has access to computer science courses. And it all starts with our teachers.”
Microsoft Philanthropies also focuses on computer science education through its Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, which pairs technology-industry volunteers with classroom teachers to team-teach computer science in 350 U.S. high schools.
“While technology can be a powerful learning tool, nothing can replace the expertise, guidance, and encouragement that teachers provide to students each day of the school year,” Snapp writes. “I remember my own favorite teachers who helped me see a world beyond the rural town in which I grew up. I would guess that nearly everyone has a similar story. We thank our teachers and we hope that this investment in computer science teachers, through CSTA, empowers more educators to do what they do best: make a positive difference in the lives of students.”