Academic journal article The Science Teacher

STEM beyond the Classroom

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

STEM beyond the Classroom

Article excerpt

One of our most important tasks as science educators is to encourage students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Both our nation and world face increasingly complex and challenging problems that require a skilled STEM workforce. Elements of STEM are integral parts of our economy, from health care and infrastructure needs, to energy and the environment.

Two factors make this task all the more pressing: A large number of current scientists and engineers are nearing retirement--26% of workers with science and engineering degrees are age 50 or older (NSB 2008)--and too few students are choosing to prepare for STEM careers. In his recent remarks to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Education Secretary Arne Duncan pointed out that only 23% of college freshman declare a STEM major, and just 40% of those students complete a STEM degree within six years (Duncan 2009). From 1985-2005, the number of bachelor's and associate degrees earned in engineering and engineering technology in the United States fell by more than 27% (NSB 2008).

How do we encourage more students to consider STEM careers? It is a multilayered problem, but--like most everything in education--it starts with the teacher. An enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher can become the role model who triggers student interest in STEM and helps students develop the foundational skills needed for careers in these fields.

We must also persuade more students to consider careers as science and math teachers. …

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