Ways to engage next STEM generation

Educators must sometimes prepare students for jobs that don't yet exist, panelists acknowledged at SmartBrief Education's annual STEM Pathways event. In Washington, D.C., for example, more than 60,000 jobs will require science, technology, engineering and math skills by 2018, Maya Garcia, director of STEM for the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent, told attendees.

What can educators do today to inspire students to develop the necessary skills for success in tomorrow's economy? Speakers and attendees were brimming with ideas. Here are three proposals gleaned from the coversation:

1. Focus on a love of learning

Nurturing curiousity and a desire to learn will serve students well no matter the careers they choose to pursue, said Melissa Moritz, deputy director of STEM at the US Department of Education. STEM education supports this foundational love of learning through promoting skills and activities that naturally engage students. Federal initiatives like Computer Science for All can help educators create opportunities in their schools and communities. 

2. Embrace noise

Students require a broad range of experiences to prepare for the real world, said Patrick Waters, a MakerEd educator. Learning environments such as makerspaces and career and technical education programs allow students to explore these broad experiences. Additionally, administrators and teachers can together subvert the mindset that a quiet classroom is a productive classroom. Mess and noise may be evidence of active, engaged learning. 

3. Seek community connections

Many companies invest in community outreach to show students the connection between the skills they are learning in the classroom and real, meaningful work. Not sure where to start? Some educators found success cold-calling the top 20 employers in their region, or reaching out to their local chapter of the US Chamber of Commerce. A nationwide competition, such as CyberPatriot's National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, might encourage students who thrive in competitive envrionments. 

________________________________________

Like this article? Sign up for SmartBrief on EdTech to get news like this in your inbox, or check out all of SmartBrief’s education newsletters, covering career and technical education, educational leadership, math education and more.