The importance of STEM education

Posted on Friday, 5/3/2013 9:30 am

According to the Common Core State Standards, English language arts and mathematics are two academic subjects in which K-12 students need to have a strong foundation if they are going to succeed in college and their professional careers. However, these are not the only subjects that can influence pupils' long-term success, as science, technology and engineering, as well as mathematics, or STEM subjects, also matter.

Why are STEM subjects so important?
In K-12 education, every academic activity, from conducting science experiments to using student software, has the potential to positively influence pupils' personal and intellectual growth. President Barack Obama has been one of STEM education's biggest supporters, as he recognizes how important an early interest in these subjects is to the increasing America's competitive edge in the global economy.

"Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people," Obama said in his 2012 State of the Union Address. "An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded."

To make this America a reality, the Obama Administration has taken steps to help students excel in these fields. In November 2009, for example, Obama introduced the Educate to Innovate initiative, according to the White House's website. Increasing the nation's number of experienced STEM educators, as well as fostering greater interest in STEM subjects are just two goals of this initiative.

White House hosts its own science fair
Today, students who have a strong interest in STEM subjects may have a chance to visit the White House, thanks to Obama's willingness to host the White House Science Fair. This past April, 100 students made their way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to participate in this event, according to The White House Blog. There, they got to show off their STEM skills by sharing their accomplishments with the commander-in-chief during this all-day event. Oil-producing algae and portable windmills were among the innovations students brought to the science fair.

"If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House," said Obama, as quoted by the blog. "Well, if you're a young person and you've produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too."

While not every student will be invited to the White House, there is no reason why teachers cannot recognize them for their STEM accomplishments some other way. Perhaps most importantly, instructors should consider the ways in which their efforts can boost their pupils' knowledge of subjects like science and technology. Anything from providing them with tablet computers to the top software for students could make a world of difference.

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