By now you have probably heard the term STEM being passed around everywhere from White House news feeds to local classrooms. Referring to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, STEM education is seen as the new vehicle for innovation, maintaining America's economic lead in the world, and, the source of tomorrow’s careers. If you do not already know about STEM, you need to school yourself pronto. Why? Instilling an interest in STEM could be one the greatest advantages you give your kid for academic and career success.
Currently, an estimated 3 million STEM jobs go unfilled. A lack of qualified candidates has forced many companies to import high skill talent, or outsource positions to countries prepared to meet growing demands. Meanwhile, a meager 12% of underrepresented minorities enter college pursuing degrees in fields such as engineering. Latinos account for only 4% of scientists and engineers in the U.S. compared to 73% of engineers who are White. The statistics for women in STEM are equally disheartening--only 1 in 10 of those in STEM fields are minority women.
If more minorities are to capitalize on our STEM future, we must begin at home, as well as in schools and communities by encouraging the curiosities of our young ones and instilling in them a belief that they can be the future leaders of innovation.
Here are some tips to help you spark interest in STEM with your child:
Aundrea's Tips for Encouraging STEM at Home
- Pick a STEM Hero: Helping your child find a role model can peak their interests to see the STEM education as an obtainable goal. Whether it is Bill Nye the Science Guy or inspirations such as Cristina Fernández-Valle, a renowned Cuban-American neuroscientist, it is important to find someone with whom your student can identify.
- Lead STEM Activities at Home: Teachable STEM moments don't have to be confined to the classroom or workplace. As a weekend project get the kids involved with home activities such as cooking or gardening and highlight the ways STEM works in everyday life. Here are some great suggestions for activities to try.
- Urge Honors and Advanced Placement Classes: The gap in minority participation in STEM is exacerbated by the lack of minorities taking advance math and science classes. If your student already has an aptitude for STEM subjects, urge her to take additional classes to the highest levels offered at her school. This will serve as great preparation for rigorous college courses.
A recent list of the hottest college majors highlighted courses such as biomedical engineering, forensic science, public health, and robotics that all yield high paying jobs for degree holders, yet are underrepresented by minorities.
Igniting new curiosities and equipping students with the right tools will continue to be a paramount priority as we look to increase the number of minorities working in STEM. The Obama administration recently endowed $3.1 Billion federal dollars to support STEM programs at universities with large minority populations. Organizations such as Black Girls Code, an initiative teaching young ladies of color about computer programing, are, likewise, emerging to spark minority interest. As we bring the conversation home--identifying a STEM hero, making science fun with activities, and encouraging advanced classes are all great ways get your student (and you) thinking about science, technology, engineering, and math as pathways to future success.
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.How do you lead innovation at home? Share the tips that have helped you get your student interested in STEM!