The speed of scientific change is slowed only by a global skills gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The good news is that we can achieve scientific and social progress by providing better STEM education and opportunity.
If you are a STEM professional, you can share your skills; why not volunteer to help make sure students are exposed to STEM routinely, both in and out of school?
Here are three ideas from Boston on how to do just that:
- Show kids the ropes at the place you know best: work. When a group of students visited the Dearborn STEM Academy, Gilbane Building Company engineers helped them create marshmallow towers and taught the basics of construction and design, while another group mixed concrete and learned how different consistencies impact a building's structure. The kids weren’t the only ones who benefited from the field trip. “There was a level of excitement that day,” said Derek Ullman, a Gilbane project manager. “We felt that we were able to give these kids something to think about as they move forward into potential STEM vocations and careers, and possibly shape their future.”
- Mentor students. Every year, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Timilty Middle School Science Fair Mentor Program mentor 50 seventh and eighth graders. Students have the freedom to choose a science-fair project topic and research question. They then meet with MGH mentors who guide them through each stage of the scientific process. “What we are finding consistently is that the mentoring relationship is often the most important facet of the program to the students and, I believe, the same is true for the mentors,” said MGH’s Tracy Stanley.
- Volunteer with STEM-oriented organizations. At Community Boat Building, students work in small teams to construct and launch traditional wooden rowboats, and explore marine science along the Fort Point Channel. Through CitySprouts, kids learn about science and nutrition through a combination of gardening and cooking. STEM professionals volunteer their time to make it all possible.
Many more STEM-related teaching concepts have sprung from BoSTEM, an initiative of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Boston Public Schools and Boston After School and Beyond. The results? Students grades are improving in STEM subjects--they’ve seen the real-world application and are excited to learn more.
Want to do more of the same in your town? Check out these resources to learn more about making the case for out-of-school STEM education in your community.