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Articles: STEM

It’s not a new reality show: Exploration Nation helps students understand STEM.

In April, three Texas middle school students joined marine veterans and a team of surgeons on a 12-day expedition through the jungles of Central America, learning about sustainable agriculture, reforestation, and ecosystems, and helping create a mobile surgical clinic for an indigenous Nicaraguan tribe that lacks access to medical treatment.

The expedition was part of a science education program called Exploration Nation, featuring real students applying STEM topics to the real world.

With the Next Generation Science Standards coming soon, elementary school teachers need more preparation to effectively teach complex STEM subjects, according to the fifth National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education, released in February. While about 80 percent of elementary teachers feel very well prepared to teach reading/language arts and math, less than half feel very well prepared to teach science, and only 4 percent are prepared for engineering, the nearly 7,800 respondents nationwide reported.

David EvansPROMOTING STEM

Oceanographer David L. Evans was appointed executive director of the National Science Teachers Association in February, and will work to promote STEM education and professional development for the Next Generation Science Standards.

Since 2004, overall interest in STEM majors and careers among high school seniors has increased by more than 20 percent, according to a new report from STEMconnector, an online STEM news source. And the southern states of the U.S. have the highest concentration of students interested in STEM, at 36 percent, compared to other regions.

Released in February, the “Where are the STEM Students?” report revealed that mechanical engineering was the most popular major or career choice among STEM-interested students, at 20 percent, while biology was second at 12 percent.

A new study found that female elementary students perform as well as their male counterparts in a series of math competitions, versus one-shot contests, refuting some previous studies that show females usually lag behind males.

STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education has been a major component to 21st-century learning in K12, but some say the acronym needs to be more inclusive. Several groups created by educators have emerged to support the push for the addition of an “A” to STEM, for STEAM, to represent the disciplines of art.

A pilot solar panel project on the roof of Aiea High School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Hawaii State Department of Education has embarked on a first- and largest-plan-of-its-kind nationwide to install solar panels in every school in the state. The plan will reduce the sunny state’s school energy costs from $47 million per year to zero, and generate revenue from extra energy that could go back to schools, school officials say.

Working with vinyl cutters, students in the Mahtomedi School District’s engineering program create their own folder covers.

Students taking the ‘How to Make (Almost) Anything’ class at Mahtomedi High School in Mahtomedi, Minn. can literally make almost anything—from chess pieces to cups to chairs, and DVD cases to clocks to lampshades—right in their classroom. And besides getting a daily dose of amazement, these students are making history in the first public school district with access to such groundbreaking, hands-on STEM education.

STEM education is moving out of classrooms and onto smartphones, with a new mobile platform called Active Explorer that aims to inspire student interest in the sciences. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) partnered with Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach initiative and mobile virtual network operator Kajeet to create the program.

  • Manufacturing biodiesel fuel.
  • Building a geodesic-domed greenhouse.
  • Measuring the environmental impact of abandoned industrial canals.

We are in the midst of a significant transformation in K12 education as we focus on getting our students ready for success in college and careers and to compete in the global economy.
Previously, to prepare for state assessments, we provided teachers with pages upon pages of standards in each subject area. Often, however, there wasn’t enough time to cover them all. Moving at such a rapid pace made it easy for students to become surface learners. Through memorization and rote learning, they mastered enough to get by on the next test but didn’t necessarily absorb the information.

Fifteen schools in Maryland have been involved with a special project from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) to bring STEM education—science, technology, engineering and math—to middle- and high-school students, working in partnership with agencies like the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the U.S. Naval Academy.

In the near future, we will see fewer traditional school buildings. Taking their place will be affinity schools, organized around students’ interests, and more STEM labs strategically located to offer easy access. Blended learning will be the norm, with individual students needing their own device. Networks will deliver higher levels of broadband performance to accommodate the growth in online learning. Technology combined with global learning will change the ways schools look today.

Facilities support services director Timothy Marsh (left) looks on as Newport Harbor High School assistant principal David Martinez (center left) and principal Michael Vossen (middle) receive a check for $10,846.

In late May, Olympics history was made at the refurbished 82-year-old pool at Newport Harbor High School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County, Calif. The U.S. men’s water polo team beat in the 2012 Olympic trials the gold-medal-winning Hungarian national team for the first time in a decade.

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