As has increasingly been discussed in recent years, not only will there continue to be more availability of jobs in STEM fields, but many other jobs will require STEM-related skills. Beyond providing great opportunities to individuals, these fields are imperative to the economic well-being of our country. To meet the needs of industry and ensure a scientifically literate public, the country’s education system—including ELOs—must foster equitable access to and success in these fields. The current data related to the need for STEM education speaks for itself:
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the year 2020 there will be 9.2 million jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields—that’s up from 7.9 million in 2010.
- U.S. 15-year-olds currently rank 21st in science test scores among 34 developed nations.
- Only 30 percent of 12th-graders who took the ACT test are ready for college-level work in science.
- Only 48 percent of eighth graders have science teachers who majored in science
- *Change The Equation and Afterschool Alliance, 2014
But, there is some good news! ELOs—before/after school and summer programs—can and must play an invaluable role in STEM education and in closing the opportunity gap facing many youth from underserved and underrepresented communities. These programs provide a different mode of learning—one that allows matching learning experiences to students’ interests and facilitates project-based learning that focuses on the relevance and importance of STEM in our daily lives. They provide students the opportunity to get excited about and engaged in STEM, we well as gain invaluable problem-solving skills.
High-quality afterschool STEM learning programs are having significant impact on the young people who participate. A recent Afterschool Alliance study (http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/ExaminingtheImpactofAfterschoolSTEMPrograms.pdf) showed youth participating in ELO STEM had improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers, increased STEM knowledge and skills, and a higher likelihood of graduating school and pursuing a STEM major in college.
Beyond School Bells wants Nebraska’s ELO programs to be a leader in promoting STEM opportunities for our youth. Over the next year, we will be focusing on strategies to better connect our states’ ELO programs with centers of STEM expertise that exist in all Nebraska communities.
Please visit the Beyond School Bells website http://www.beyondschoolbells.org/nestem/ for further information about STEM. To review a summary of STEM in Nebraska, visit the Change the Equation website: http://vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/tcpdf/vitalsigns/newsletter.php?statename=Nebraska