How to get STEM students to ‘poke the universe’ again

Schools, corporations attempt to spur interest in STEM through project-based learning

poke-STEMSteve Woodhead, manager of global social investment for Chevron, said the energy corporation is trying to address a big problem in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“For 200 years people relied on farming, and so they knew how to farm,” Woodhead said to eSchool News during the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference last week.Now, people rely on technology, but so few seem to know anything about it.”

Chevron’s not the only major company attempting to address the so-called “STEM gap”–the idea that schools are not producing enough STEM-proficient students to fill the 2.1 million jobs that will exist in the sector by 2020. Also sponsoring the event were companies such as Shell, Boeing, and Chevy, which had parked two of its cars on either side of the main convention stage.

And a common plan among the sponsors, speakers, and panelists to close that gap is to toss out old-fashioned lectures, and replace them with project-based learning.

“You can’t just attract kids to STEM,” Woodhead said. “There has to be something for them when they get there. It’s not just about teachers emptying their brains into classrooms.”

(Next page: Why do students lose interest in STEM?)

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