Providing an engaging and equitable STEM education is an important step in helping to develop more scientists and engineers while increasing race and gender diversity in the field–both of which are much needed in today’s world. Education in STEM can also help develop a STEM-literate citizenry.
While there are many nuanced definitions for STEM literacy, the basis is that STEM-literate individuals are able to apply STEM concepts to identify, understand, and solve problems in the world around them, whether or not these problems are scientific in nature. STEM-literate individuals are able to think in a scientific-minded way about issues that impact their life and the community as a whole.
As educators, helping students understand the importance and benefits of STEM literacy – and how science impacts so many facets of their everyday lives – is an important responsibility.
Making real-world connections
COVID-19 is a glaring example of something that impacts everyone’s day-to-day life. With so much anecdotal information or misinformation about the virus, it is also a prime example of the need for STEM literacy and offers a good STEM-focused learning opportunity for students.
Having a knowledge base on the science behind the virus–and viruses in general–is critical as it helps students (and adults) understand what exactly the virus is, how it transmits, and how it can be stopped. This understanding also helps eliminate bias or opinion when talking about the virus as conversation is grounded in scientific fact. Offering opportunities to learn about this prevalent topic, and to gather and analyze science-backed information, will in turn help students make more informed personal decisions when it comes to hygiene, wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated.