Spotlight on STEM Education

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The past few years have seen educators, administrators, and curriculum planners working to get students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. As the job market for these subjects grows, so too does the interest in preparing K-12 students to study them at a higher level.

John Dichiara, program manager, Corporate Social Responsibility for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), is a former middle school science teacher now involved in getting students interested in STEM subjects through camps and other experiences. Dichiara spoke with School Planning & Management about getting students more deeply into technical subjects in ways that keep them motivated.

Q. What are some of the most proven strategies to help foster a love of STEM subjects in lower grades?

Fostering a love of STEM starts with first breaking down misconceptions students often have around these fields (i.e. being a doctor doesn’t have to mean you deal with blood, and being a computer scientist doesn’t mean you write lines of code all day long).

STEM careers must feel engaging and accessible, in order for a student to believe they can or want to pursue a degree or career in any of these areas. The ability for a student to see themselves in a these fields is the most critical step toward engagement. This means exposure to more people that look like them—in STEM fields. Reading books with protagonists in STEM fields, watching movies where STEM professionals are celebrated, or even save the day, can be small ways to foster a love of the subjects, even outside of the classroom.

Q. Given the complexity of STEM disciplines at their highest level, how can teachers break complicated concepts down for younger students?

It’s important to foster student-driven exploration related to community-centered issues. Allowing students to work in teams to identify a problem and generate possible solutions helps them develop these computational thinking skills.

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