Navigating the STEM Jungle

July 15, 2011

 When trying to make sense of national education policy for the improvement of education to prepare kids for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)  fields, I am reminded of the phase, “It’s a jungle out there!”  The sheer volume of information can be overwhelming, and agreement on the best approach to prepare America’s youth for an increasingly more technological society is yet to be achieved.

Considering this, what’s a civil engineer to do who wants to make a difference in the conversation about STEM educational reform where they live?

ASCE’s Committee on Pre-College Outreach is following STEM closely with the goal of helping members better navigate this landscape and to encourage advocacy at the local level.  More and more, they will be sharing information with members about the evolving STEM education conversation to help tame the jungle and to build members’ confidence in advocating for educational reform in their communities.    

Here are some recent developments: The National Research Council of the National Academies just released a report on Successful K-12 STEM Education, identifying proven approaches in effective STEM education.   The report recommended that schools and districts:

  •  Identify successful models for STEM instruction, and choose those models that fit the needs and resources of the local community. 
  • Ensure that the most important topics are being taught and that the rigor and sequencing of these topics is clearly articulated.
  • Devote adequate instructional time to Science in grades K-5 and enhance the capacity of teachers to teach STEM disciplines.
  • Learn the characteristics of and create supportive school environments that support student achievement.

This week, ASCE member George Blandford, Ph.D., P.E., attended the K-12 STEM Education Policy Conference in Washington DC, sponsored by a coalition of teaching and engineering associations and the STEM Education Coalition.  The purpose of the conference was to help those  interested in the future of STEM education to learn more about the rapidly changing STEM education policy landscape from federal policy makers and national education leaders.  George then met with his local Kentucky legislators to share his desires and concerns about STEM education with people who are in the position to change policy. 

As members of ASCE your unique perspective as civil engineering professionals is invaluable in helping policy makers understand the real need for a prepared STEM workforce.   Are you willing to take it upon yourself to gain the knowledge you need about the STEM education landscape and seek out those who are policy makers?  By changing the way you think about your role and valuable perspective in promoting educational reform, you just may have the opportunity to change the STEM conversation in your local community for the better.  Another school year will be in session soon. 

On a local level, what education improvement strategies to prepare kids for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have you seen in your community?  What do you think could be done differently/better?  How could civil engineers create a grass roots effort?

Links:

The report
http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=13158

The coalition
http://www.stemedcoalition.org/

Leslie Payne – Senior Manager, Pre-College Outreach

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