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Getting students excited about STEM

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2014 12:03 PM

The science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields have seen an increase in job demand over the last few years, and the trend is only expected to continue. However, those jobs may not be occupied because there aren't enough STEM students graduating in the U.S. to fill the positions. As a result, companies have had to hire employees from outside the country. Educators, employers and legislators agree that schools should help kids get excited about STEM because if more students get degrees in these fields, they can fill open job positions and reduce the need to outsource.

Getting creative
It's hard to care about complex topics if they don't feel real. However, when kids get to see science come to life, they are more likely to engage in the conversation. For example, what sounds more interesting? Reading the definition for kinetic energy and energy transformation in a text book, or hearing the lecture and applying the concepts to real life by building a roller coaster out of pipe insulation? Most kids would choose the latter. 

For this reason, many schools and teachers have tried to add creative demonstrations to their lessons. They want students to get excited about STEM fields, so they make the lessons as fun and educational as possible. Teachers working in states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards even have access to support and resources. They can attend free classes at museums or read up on lesson plan ideas. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education has taken initiatives to support STEM teachers. Programs that excel could be eligible to win awards and further funding. 

Real-life application
Many students don't think they will use the information they learned once they graduate. While it may not seem like you'd use math or chemistry formulas outside the classroom, there are plenty of real-life applications. By showing students how they will use the information they must know for tests in the real world, teachers are igniting their curiosity and appreciation for the knowledge. 

For example, NASA created a list of Practical Uses of Math and Science (PUMAS) for teachers to use in their classrooms. These example lessons help educators connect STEM subject matter to the world outside the classroom. 

Community resources
School can be an exciting place to learn STEM subjects, especially if teachers apply creative lessons to real life. However, students may find a deeper passion for STEM by visiting a museum. These buildings are packed with mind-blowing information and are a great field trip option for schools.