An Echo Press Editorial: Explore a career path that knows no limits
By the Echo Press Editorial Board
You may have seen the acronym, STEM, and wondered what it meant or if it’s important.
It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
And yes, it’s an extremely important field of study – one that will help define the nation’s future and whether the U.S. will be able to compete against other countries that are making breakthroughs in these academic disciplines.
STEM is all about innovation, problem-solving and critical thinking.
But here’s the problem: Not nearly enough girls and women are selecting STEM as their career path. Imagine having this pool of talented young minds that are beginning their academic studies only to have half of them, young girls, drop out of the field before they even graduate from high school.
As part of International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Feb. 11, Brainly – the world's largest online learning and homework help community for parents, students and teachers – conducted a study to learn more about STEM. It found that girls’ interest in STEM subjects peaks in Middle School (56%) and drops significantly by the time their high school careers come to a close (40%).
“As the fastest growing segment of jobs, it’s clear the future of STEM needs women,” the Brainly website points out.
So what’s the solution? Brainly’s parenting expert, Patrick Quinn, shared some tips for educators and parents. “Representation matters,” he said. “Do you know that when children are asked to draw a picture of a scientist or mathematician, they almost universally draw men? Our girls aren’t seeing themselves in STEM professions on a subconscious level, so we need to start teaching about women making waves in the STEM community.”
Brainly encourages parents and educators to implement these steps to keep America’s girls engaged in STEM:
- Teach about women in STEM. Look past Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein and start teaching children about the likes of computer programmer, mathematician and rocket scientist, Annie Easley; primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall; physicist and chemist Marie Sklodowska-Curie; chemist Edith Flanigen – and more. Giving girls a relatable hero to look up to will increase their interest in STEM.
- Pique their interest. Share how STEM relates to daily life and how it can be used to solve the future’s challenges. Have kids who like to bake? Learn the chemistry behind cooking, and how you’re producing an endothermic chemical reaction as you bake a cake. Do your children love to play video games? Encourage them to learn how to code their own.
- Teachers can create engaging lesson plans and use different teaching formats. Did you know girls tend to score better on tests with open-ended answers? Use less multiple choice questions in exams and incorporate more questions that cannot be answered with static responses.
- Extend learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Give parents and students ideas about how to continue STEM learning at home. Encourage students to explore STEM apps and textbooks or help other students who are struggling with STEM concepts. Host a “STEM Night” for families. Send students home with age-appropriate STEM sheets.
Fortunately, schools and teachers in the Douglas County area know how important STEM is. Two examples:
The Douglas County 4-H runs a STEM program and has sponsored robotics competitions that have drawn good participation from boys and girls. During a robotics competition a few years ago, students learned about the long-term effects of space travel and constructed Lego robots to score points in a robot-themed game.
Alexandria Technical and Community College also supports STEM events, offering hands-on manufacturing camps where students use Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills that they already have or learn from instructors.
Careers in STEM fields are rewarding, innovative and exciting. The possibilities are as unlimited as the imagination of creative and curious minds. More young girls – and women – should explore it.