Early elementary school is a perfect time to introduce STEM learning, and building equitable STEM programs is essential, like this girl enjoying science class.

STEM learning should start early, survey says


Early elementary school is a perfect time to introduce STEM learning, and building equitable STEM programs is essential

Nearly all Americans (94 percent) say STEM learning creates a love of science and mathematics in children from a young age, according to a new survey.

The Brainly survey of 1,000 U.S. students shows that while Americans clearly advocate for STEM learning and see the career advantages it offers, a whopping 83 percent of survey respondents think the U.S. is lagging behind other countries when it comes to STEM in public education and careers.

Twenty-six percent of Americans believe it’s most important to incorporate STEM learning in kindergarten through second grade (28 percent), followed by third through fifth grade (26 percent), and sixth through eighth grade (20 percent).

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed say they believe having an educational background in STEM makes someone more hire-able, and 76 percent say people with STEM backgrounds earn higher salaries than those with traditional educational backgrounds.

STEM has evolved into STEAM, with the “A” standing for art. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed say they prefer STEAM learning methods over STEM learning methods.

Students in the northeast seem to love STEM learning–the top 10 states where U.S. students say they most enjoy their STEM classes are:
1. Massachusetts (83 percent)
2. Washington (80 percent)
3. Virginia (79 percent)
4. Ohio (77 percent)
5. Indiana (77 percent)
6. Delaware (74 percent)
7. Maryland (70 percent)
8. Oregon (69 percent)
9. California (67 percent)
10. Maine (64 percent)

Another study shows that real-world relevance and a little dash of humor are two ingredients that might increase engagement and make STEM learning fun for high school students.

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) surveyed 1,100 high school students from across the U.S. on how to increase student interest, understanding, and performance in math and STEM subjects. The study shows that almost 60 percent of responding students want teachers to be more creative in the classroom.

Those students say out-of-the-box teaching methods and fun science projects and competitions are two ways to increase STEM engagement and interest. Forty-nine percent of students say STEM learning should be more relevant to real life, and 35 percent think more technology in the classroom would help STEM seem more exciting.

Because the U.S. needs talented workers from all backgrounds and with all kinds of experiences in order to populate a diverse and technologically-proficient workforce, building equitable STEM programs in schools is absolutely essential.

Ensuring elementary teachers have STEM professional development opportunities, exposing students to STEM learning at an early age, embracing project-based learning, and connecting lessons to life outside the classroom are all important steps in establishing equity early on in STEM learning programs.

Consistent STEM learning also can help engage more girls in STEM topics. Girls are underrepresented in STEM clubs and subjects in K-12 through college, and there are still many more men than women in STEM fields.

The call for equal representation is becoming louder, and society is striving to solve glaring gender gaps in STEM graduates and STEM fields across the country. The numbers tell an alarming story about female representation in STEM education and fields.

According to Girls Who Code, fewer than 20 percent of computer science graduates are women. Today, only 24 percent of computer scientists are women, and by 2027, just 22 percent of women will be represented in the field. Women make up half of the nation’s total college-educated workforce, but just 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce.

When it comes to keeping girls engaged in computer science, research shows that girls are more interested in a challenge when they know they are solving a problem for society or when they know their solution will help people. Appealing to that interest, experts say, can help girls stick with computer science even as it becomes more challenging.

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Laura Ascione
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