Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The acronym for synthesizing these four components in schools is STEM and it is hard to avoid in education circles today. The term is often accompanied by a call to arms of sorts as schools look for ways to make today's classrooms relevant to 21st Century trends.
Schools across the nation are adding STEM curricula and embedding this buzzword in their course offerings. Often an "a" is added in recognition of the key component of design and creativity (art) in each of these fields changing the term to STEAM. All of this presupposes a student population as convinced as we are of STEMs importance. But are they? How can we encourage and inspire students to grow as STEM students? How can we give them the roots they need for strong, healthy STEM engagement? As as study published by the the STEM Education Coalition maintains, informal exposure to STEM is one of the best ways to establish these very important roots.
Recently SGHS was invited to participate in Cisco's ITC enrichment event Girls Power Tech Day. This simple experience, bringing students and mentors in the ITC field together and providing hands-on learning about connective technologies under development across the globe, opened our students' eyes to the significance of STEM. They were able to see first hand the interpersonal component of tech and came to a new understanding of it as a field that depends on connectivity among peers. They were able to open up their minds and realize the importance of thinking beyond what we do now to what might be possible. Seeing the STEM imperative out in the "real world" did wonders for establishing roots for each of them.
Establish Roots and watch STEM grow for your daughter.
Here are some great ways to provide the informal exposure to STEM girls need:
1. Informal mentorships: Seek mentors in your daughter's own community so she can visit with them about what they do. Do you have friends who code in RVA or are in STEM fields who could share their career paths and experience with your daughter? Most people jump at the chance to share what they have learned along the way with girls who are just starting to explore. Many even enjoy having a student shadow them for a day.
2. Volunteering: Girls can gain insight into STEM by volunteering their time and talents.
3. Use summer camp experiences to give your daughter the opportunity to try out STEM-related endeavors without the pressure of grades. Summer Camps for girls that offer coding, robotics or maker-space experiences are a fun way to ignite and foster an interest in STEM.
4. Talk about it! Model a curious mind for your daughter, and, when out in the world with her, wonder aloud at how it is possible that we live as we do today. You don't need to have all the answers to foster the imagination and curiosity needed for problem-solving with STEM....what counts are the questions!
5. Robotics: Robotics is STEM in action every step of the way and provides peer-level inspiration. Check out Virginia First Robotics to find opportunites for your daughter to participate.
6. Visit a Maker Faire either in town or on your summer travels. Maker Media calls their faires "Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors." See this map and listing to find a maker faire near you this summer.