STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These four areas of study have become crucial for students who want to be part of an innovative, rapidly growing industry with excellent career prospects. Fortunately, many amazing ways to get your kids involved in STEM!

The occupational trends are worth understanding. However, it’s not just about becoming the next tech baron or getting your stock options. It’s about developing our human potential. In short, STEM helps us tackle significant global challenges.

The U.S. Department of Education states that:

If we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers can understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow and meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, building students’ skills, content knowledge, and literacy in STEM fields is essential.

U.S. Department of Education 

What Are the Benefits of Learning STEM at a Young Age?

Short-term benefits:

  • Improved grades and academic performance
  • Great Foundation for college-level coursework
  • Essential skills: problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity

Long-term benefits:

  • Entrepreneurial mindset
  • Choice of innovative, well-paid careers
  • Becoming a creator, not just a consumer
  • Tools to navigate a world run by technology and science

What Are the Trademarks of a Successful STEM Education Program?

  • The integration of topics — no field is considered in isolation but explored in how they relate to one another, with an emphasis on real-world applications
  • Project-based-learning and inquiry-based learning approaches encourage student curiosity
  • Creativity, trial-and-error, and even grit are shown as part of the scientific process

The addition of computer science to the K12 curriculum is a big change, one that business leaders, teachers, parents, and state governors agree is worth pursuing. Read more about the CEOs for Computer Science initiative here.

How Parents Can Augment Their Child’s STEM Learning

When it comes to your child’s STEM education, it’s imperative to pursue available resources.

  1. Clubs

Ask around your school or neighborhood for existing clubs or activities.

  • Snapology — Provides STEM/STEAM programs featuring tecLEGO® bricks and K’Nex®
  • NASA STEM Club — Explore the mysteries of outer space science with fun projects
  • Science Explorers — Offers both virtual and in-person after-school clubs

2. Books

Many libraries provide digital access to thousands of free technology ebooks (via oreilly.com or similar services) in addition to kid-friendly STEM books in their regular library.

  • Rosie Revere, Engineer — This book inspires girls to see themselves in engineering and STEM. Part of the Questioneer series. Ages 3-6.
  • Tynker Activity Books — Tynker has a great series of books detailing inspirational block-coding projects. Ages 8-12+.
  • Maker Lab — Hands-on activities that you can do with household objects, part of a series from DK Publishing. Ages 8-12+.

3. Museums

Local museums can also be a fantastic way to supplement STEM learning.

  • San Francisco’s Exploratorium is a public learning laboratory exploring the world through science, art, and human perception.
  • The mission of Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute is to inspire a passion for learning about science and technology.
  • Chicago’s Field Museum has a Dozin’ with the Dinos program where kids can spend the night at the museum, enjoying activities like dissecting owl pellets and learning the steps of Egyptian mummification.

4. Zoos, Nature Centers, Aquariums, and Universities

  • Prospect Park Zoo in New York has a STEM Gone Wild program for k-5 students with activities that include science experiments, data collection, hands-on activities, animal observations, and more.
  • The Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut has a STEM Accelerator Program that includes activities in building boats, programming and coding, constructing towers, launching toy cars, solving math puzzles, and more.

5. Diversity in STEM

Many new resources have been developed to get the most diverse range of voices in STEM, though women in general only represent about 26% of technologists according to Women Who Code.

  • Girls Who Code — To close the gender gap in technology, they offer a series of inspirational and educational books!
  • Black Girls Code — An interest group aimed at inspiring young women of color to become coders.
  • Women@NASA — Read the inspirational stories of women working at NASA.
  • Women in STEM — This Tynker blog series highlights women’s achievements, past and present.
  • @BrownStemGirl — This is the Twitter handle for Alena Analeigh, the Brown STEM Girl founder.

STEM: Majors & Degrees

Regardless of their major, STEM students usually take courses in fields like biology, chemistry, calculus, statistics, and engineering.

Popular STEM Majors:

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Biology
  • Software Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Computer Science
  • Information Technology

Popular STEM Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Applied science
  • Bachelor of Engineering

Some educators have begun adding Arts to the STEM acronym to form STEAM, which emphasizes connections to visual arts, music, and creativity. For some learners, it can help inspire them to pursue technical fields — and see the beauty of mathematics.

Currently, it’s estimated that there are roughly 700,000 open computing jobs but only 80,000 computer science graduates every year. According to a recent article in Best Colleges, engineering is the most in-demand major in 2022. Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for computer hardware engineers was $119,560 in 2020 and $92,620 for biomedical engineers.

Americans with a strong foundation in STEM have electrified the Nation, harnessed the power of the atom, put men on the Moon and rovers on Mars, developed the internet, designed computers that fit in your pocket, created imaging machines that reveal the inner workings of the body, and decoded the human genome.

These stunning achievements have transformed the human experience, inspired generations, and fostered the strong public support for STEM education and research.

A statement from the National Science and Technology Council:

In the last thirty years, we’ve seen remarkable advancements in technology, which are profoundly impacting how we live and ultimately how we educate our children. Teaching science in high school, of course, is nothing new. So what’s changed?

The T in STEM, Technology, holds the clue. Computation and computer science have touched nearly every aspect of scientific innovation, including agriculture, biochemistry, astrophysics, medicine, and ecology.

When students learn to understand how and why scientific or mathematical ideas apply to a situation, they’re more likely to acquire a deeper understanding of the material. That’s why, whenever possible, today’s teachers try to link scientific discoveries and innovations to their students’ everyday lives.

Check out Tynker and learn more about inspiring the next generation to change the world through code.

Author

Lomit Patel is the Chief Growth Officer of Tynker, with 20 years of experience helping startups grow into successful businesses. Lomit has previously played a critical role in scaling growth at startups, including Roku (IPO), TrustedID (acquired by Equifax), Texture (acquired. by Apple), and IMVU (#2 top-grossing gaming app). Lomit is a public speaker, author, and advisor, with numerous accolades and awards throughout his career, including being recognized as a Mobile Hero by Liftoff. Lomit's book Lean AI is part of Eric Ries' best-selling "The Lean Startup" series.