Educators strive to lure students into STEM fields

By Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Apr 03, 2013

A major emphasis among school districts across the United States is to expose students to job opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are collectively known as STEM fields.

With today’s increasingly more complex world, the demand for jobs in high-tech, STEM-related areas has grown significantly in the past 20 years and is expected to continue growing in the future.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM careers are some of the best paying of occupations and also have the greatest potential for job growth. Yet, schools are finding fewer students interested in pursuing an education in STEM subject areas.

So, schools are doing what they can to improve science and math education, working to strengthen the skills of teachers in those subject areas, and trying to get more students interested in going to college to earn STEM degrees.

In the Mukilteo School District, we have focused on STEM areas in a number of ways. Interested students take high school courses such as engineering design, forensic science, biotechnology, and robotics.

Robotics has become a significant activity in many schools, with competitive robotics teams at both Mariner and Kamiak high schools, as well as at middle school and even at the elementary level.

Our school district manages the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center, which provides a number of career and technical education programs for students from throughout the county.

The school offers students hands-on experience in technical areas such as aerospace manufacturing, robotics and electronics technology, DigiPen video game animation, computers, servers and networking.

There’s much more, as well. We have worked through the Washington Alliance for Better Schools to provide teachers with a taste of how STEM is used in local businesses.

Students at both Mariner and Voyager Middle School can take part in a program called MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement), which encourages minority students and girls to pursue STEM careers. In addition to robotics, many schools also have science clubs and math clubs.

Other excellent opportunities to touch students with STEM experiences are taking shape. We have been working with the Boeing Co. to organize a program that would offer paid internships for high school students who have an interest in pursuing a career in a STEM field.

We are also working to take advantage of the fact that our school district completely surrounds Paine Field, the home of Boeing, a number of high-tech manufacturing companies, and several museums that are dedicated to technology and the aerospace industry.

We recently had an exciting meeting with people from the Mukilteo Schools Foundation, the Future of Flight Museum, Boeing, the Future of Flight Foundation, the Museum of Flight Restoration Center, the Historic Flight Foundation and the Imagine Children’s Museum to discuss how we can give our students real-life STEM experiences.

Working together, we want to expose Mukilteo students to STEM in a way where they can see it in action and connect what they have learned in the classroom to the world that is around them. You will hear more about this effort in the months to come.

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