As important as STEM careers are, the notable dropout rate in STEM focused college programs and the growing segregation of students into STEM versus non-stem categories shows our broad misunderstanding of what STEM really is at its core.
Every career is a STEM career. The only difference is the amount of education required for a specific field and the financial compensation received.
From bug exterminator to aerospace engineer, STEM skills are required on a daily basis. This can only call into question our approach to filling career field shortages and how STEM is understood and incorporated into every curriculum.
A corrected understanding of STEM in our daily lives can only provide less resistance to STEM discussions and career considerations from an early age as well as clarify the hardwired STEM characteristics inherent in our brains from birth.
When teachers and students are aware of their use of science, technology, the engineering method and mathematics in their personal, non-professional lives, the application to careers and their required skill set become very clear.
By definition, we all use the engineering method (a decision making process) several times per day without realizing it. The same can be said when defining science, which is the “intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experimentation”. When we truly understand our daily use of “systematic study” and “decision making” we quickly see that we are engineers and scientists in practice well before a career choice is made.
Regarding math and technology use, those two are fairly easy to see, from cooking recipes and simple measurements (math) to smart phone and computer use (technology).
The creation of STEM schools, degrees and specialized pathways could make one question our STEM understanding and solution planning in light of a one third college STEM degree dropout rate, not to say they don’t have an important role to play.
Out of focus?
Could we be focused in the wrong direction regarding STEM in America and world-wide? It wouldn’t be the first time we made an education miscalculation.
The incorporation of STEM understanding in grades K-12 is easily accomplished without increasing the budget or creating a new curriculum, both of which the typical school is unwilling to embrace to say nothing of the teachers already overwhelming time constraints.
An early start to a clear and comprehensive knowledge of STEM use in our daily lives can only increase our curiosity and interest in career possibilities that would have otherwise been ignored or deemed unattainable by many if not most students and their families. That simple curiosity is the foundation of all student exploration into fields of interest. When clearly understood, no career choice is unreachable, and its STEM applications no longer scary and unattainable.
“I use STEM every day, no matter my future career choice,” are the words we should be hearing from students in all grades. For those who drop out of college level STEM paths, they will soon discover that they still need and will use STEM skills anyway, everyday.
We need to redefine our misconception of STEM by definition, career category, and curriculum development. A 60 second STEM activity a few times per week in every subject is the foundation of a corrected understanding of how we think, what we can accomplish, a new encouragement to be curious and a welcome embrace of all things STEM without fear or discouragement.
Young man or women….all are born hard wired for STEM and destined to use STEM daily as a plumber, teacher, auto mechanic, politician, aerospace engineer or geochemist.
Wayne Carley is the publisher of STEM Magazine