Academic journal article Education

America's Children: Providing Early Exposure to Stem (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Initiatives

Academic journal article Education

America's Children: Providing Early Exposure to Stem (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Initiatives

Article excerpt

Introduction

The face of the American economy and that of the global economy has seen increasing change over the past decade (National Science Board, 2010). The trend of these economies has increased in science, technology, and innovation, as well as become more knowledge intensive. The need for professionals in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) continues to grow at a comparable rate as well to meet the demands of this high-tech global economy. The increase in professional workers in Science and Technology fields in the United States has seen steady growth over the past decade, but lags behind the dramatic growth of our European and Asian global competitors in developed countries (National Science Board, 2010). As a result, more focus has been placed on STEM initiatives in American schools. These initiatives have been largely seen in the middle and high school curricula, but there has been little change in the elementary curricula to support these growing trends. Bencze (2010) writes, "... although there is considerable academic and official curricular support for promoting student-directed, open-ended science inquiry and technological design projects in schools, the reality is that they rarely occur." (p. 58)

Review of the Literature

History

Current reform in science education and the push for STEM awareness by the Obama administration and nationally recognized foundations (e.g. American Association for the Advancement for Science, National Science Foundation) have emphasized projects and programs that encourage American youth to connect with STEM fields. Results on the PISA and TIMSS international studies of math and science exams have shown that American youth fall behind other developed countries in their abilities in science and math (Russell, Hancock & McCullogh, 2007; Russell, 1999)

In addition, various research studies of undergraduate student experiences in choosing STEM professions (Russell, Hancock & McCullogh, 2007; Russell, 1999) have noted that the best time to create a connection, awareness and interest in STEM fields would be the elementary years.

The number of students enrolling in more advanced math and science courses in high schools in America is on the increase according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (2011). However, The National Science Board (2010) still projects a shortage of workers in the STEM fields in the United States in our near future. Over half of doctorate degrees in Natural Sciences and Engineering earned in the United States since 2006 were awarded to foreign nationals, largely from East Asia (National Science Board, 2010). Even though the number of undergraduate students entering STEM degree programs at four-year institutions has risen over the past decade, the rate of increase lags behind other developed countries.

Present Initiatives

One current initiative in promoting STEM in American education belongs to national organizations. The first is called The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2004). The goal of this initiative is to prepare American children to develop the skills they will need in order to compete in our global economy. This partnership between educators, policy makers, and community members aims to provide tools and resources for public schools, and fight for policies that will advance the cause. The framework of this skill set encompasses reading, writing, arithmetic (3 R's), and other core subject areas; along with critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity (4 C's). 21st century themes, and information media and technology are also a focus of the partnership with support systems designating professional development for teachers and support for the learning environments. While some school districts were already embracing similar ideas, the partnership strives to provide equal support and resources for all schools across America at the local, state, and national levels. …

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