Teaching STEM skills to prepare students for future careers

STEM programs expose students to the skill sets they will need to compete in the global job market.

STEM programs expose students to the skill sets they will need to compete in the global job market.

Considering how integrated technology has become with our everyday lives, it’s as important as ever to understand its basic building blocks. Yet you wouldn’t know that to look at math and science test scores in the U.S. Recent studies have shown that American students trail far behind many of their international contemporaries when it comes to math and science skills. That could spell trouble down the road, as those skill sets are a good indicator of success in the global market. Luckily there’s a solution.

In order to get American students up to speed with the challenges they will face, many schools have started offering a curriculum focused on the mastery of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics. This is no easy feat. Minnesota’s Kingsland Public Schools (KPS) recently set out to get certified by Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit group that helps school districts improve their STEM programs. The process required a major overhaul of the school system’s existing technology including installing 62 state-of-the-art classroom computers. In the end, auditors evaluated everything from the curriculum to student work.

“If you’ve ever had to deal with the IRS, it’s like that – but in a very good way,” said KPS Superintendent John McDonald.

The good news, however, is that the effort paid off. Once KPS became certified, it was able to offer students courses that could be recognized for college credit and jumpstart the careers of ambitious young students interested in medicine, computing and engineering.

President Obama praises STEM education
In fact, education experts have identified STEM coursework as so important to preparing students for the future job market that President Barack Obama singled out the issue in his most recent State of the Union address.

This is because STEM programs have proven to be very successful at a number of schools:

  • At McKinley High School in Washington, D.C., students enrolled in the STEM program graduate with a 92 percent proficiency rate in math
  • The Lancaster School District’s Discovery School in California has pursued practical applications of STEM principles. For instance, students studying the ozone layer incorporated lessons on alternative energy sources and built a wind turbine.
  • In Ohio, educators at the Dayton Regional STEM School integrate STEM into all aspects of the curriculum, including the arts. In one instance, students were asked to create watercolor paintings of cells. This allowed students to gain a better understanding of the similar forms and structures that exist in both art and science.

As the world becomes more dependent on digital technology, students will increasingly be expected to have more technical know-how if they want to land a job out of college. To get them started on the right foot, schools should offer STEM courses whenever possible.

What is your school doing to prepare students for their futures? Is it pursuing STEM curriculums? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below and be sure to stop by our Facebook page!

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.