Science is the one subject that encompasses everything in life and helps students to be curious, ask questions, and make connections as to why the world exists as it does. It is the backdrop for understanding our world, and for helping us to explain and appreciate it in new ways.
Science is the “S” in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. We define STEM education as the preparation of students in competencies and skills in the four disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math). A successful STEM education provides students with science, math, and engineering/technology in sequences that build upon each other and can be used with real-world applications.
STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depend on a solid knowledge based on the STEM areas. It is clear that most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science—10-year employment projections by the U.S. Department of Labor show that of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—STEM, and therefore, STEM education—are vital to our future—the future of our country, the future of our region and the future of our children. Besides, STEM is everywhere; it shapes our everyday experiences.
Have you considered how often we experience STEM in our lives? Science is our natural world— sun, moon and stars…lands and oceans…weather, natural disasters, the diversity of nature, animals (large, small, microbial)…plants and food…the fuel that heats our homes and powers transportation…The list is almost endless. In today’s world, technology is thought of as computers and smartphones, but it goes back to television, radio, microscopes, the telegraph, telescopes, compass, and even the first wheel. Yes, engineering builds roads, and bridges, but it also tackles today’s challenges of transportation, global warming and environment-friendly machines, appliances, and systems. We only have to look around to see what improvements to our lives and our homes have been engineered in the last decade alone. We encounter mathematics at the grocery store, the bank, on tax forms, in dealing with investments and the family budget. Every other STEM field depends on mathematics. STEM is important, because it pervades every aspect of our lives.
Let’s consider how STEM affects what is closest and dearest to us—our children. STEM is their future—the technological age in which they live, their best career options, and their key to wise decisions. In 2009, the United States Department of Labor listed the ten most wanted employees. Eight of those employees were ones with degrees in the STEM fields: accounting, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, information sciences and systems, computer engineering, civil engineering, and economics and finance. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while others are growing at 9.8%. From health care workers with associate degrees to doctors of medicine will average 20% more in life-time earnings than peers with similar degrees in non-health care. A glance at 2010 starting salaries for engineers –with $47,145 for civil engineers to $60,054 for chemical engineers– is strong evidence that STEM related jobs can be financially rewarding careers for our children.
Likewise, according to the U. S. Labor Department, the 10 fastest growing occupations from 2008-2018, and their median wages, are:
Biomedical engineers, $77,400
Network systems and data communications analysts, $71,100
Financial examiners, $70,930
Medical scientists, except epidemiologists, $72,590
Physician assistants, $81,230
Biochemists and biophysicists, $82,840
Athletic trainers, $39,640