Teachers can keep students ahead of the curve by teaching STEM early and often

Stop me if you’ve heard these concerns before.

“Studying STEM is the only way my child will be able to get a job!” say parents.

“We can’t find enough job candidates with the necessary STEM skills to fill our open positions!” say business owners.

“We need more students learning STEM so we can stay competitive in the global economy!” say lawmakers.

It feels like everyone—parents, administrators, policymakers and business leaders—has an opinion about how we can improve our education system and what we should prioritize. This issue is especially prevalent in conversations about STEM education.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has concluded, “young children’s minds are very receptive to math and logic” and “early mathematics skills are the strongest predictor of future academic achievement.” The critical finding here is that an early and consistent focus on STEM education doesn’t just help hone students’ critical thinking, logic and reasoning capacities; it creates countless opportunities for interdisciplinary learning in other areas like literacy and communication skills.

Still, even faced with this kind of imperative, it can be challenging for teachers to consider how to make STEM education a greater part of their students’ education. But there are plenty of resources available to make this task easier:

  1. You can turn to software, like Canvas, which provides an intuitive user interface that saves teachers and students time. It also features an open ecosystem of learning tools that allows for single sign-on, central grading and a proven history of performance dependability. All of these features help to put the mastery of skills and key concepts—whether STEM or otherwise—front and center.
  2. The National Science Foundation has collected an array of free resources from across the academic spectrum, including lessons and interactive web resources to support teaching across a variety of subjects, including computer science, mathematics, engineering, biology, chemistry and physics. The resources are split up to help you find tools for middle school girls, elementary schoolers and even parents!
  3. Another easy way to fit STEM education into the curriculum, and one that’s particularly timely as we head into December and National Computer Science Education week, is the Hour of Code Challenge, spearheaded by the nonprofit organization Code.org. Hour of Code is a great way to introduce students to computer science and programming by emphasizing where STEM education can start with easy, bite-size lessons that keep things fun and approachable. Hour of Code events can be organized by anyone, anywhere in the country, and they can even serve as an exciting opportunity to invite parents to join in the learning experience with students.

But don’t forget about your own personal development! Teachers can’t afford to neglect their own professional development when it comes to enhancing their skills and ensuring they are capable STEM educators. There’s help here as well, with organizations like Campus Ties offering micro-courses and built-in tests devised by trusted professionals. Micro-certificates are earned by learners based on each course completed.

Our children dream about growing up to be so many different things: scientists, architects, video game developers, writers, artists and countless more careers we haven’t even imagined yet. But no matter what they’re interested in, we have more evidence than ever before to suggest that learning about STEM fields can support their overall growth and development. Building these concepts into students’ academic careers early on and making it a fun and engaging experience to learn STEM doesn’t have to be difficult, but it’s up to teachers to take the initiative and find ways to make it a part of the day as often as possible.

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