Science. Technology. Engineering. Math; or as it’s more commonly called, STEM. It’s our line of work; it’s what we do every day. As these fields continue to evolve, it’s critical to become involved with STEM programs for children, so they learn the benefits of those fields.
Recently, Andrew Hall, Principal Software Engineer at GRIDSMART, attended a STEM night at Hardin Valley Elementary School to speak to the students about GRIDSMART and ITS. While it seems like a simple gesture, we quickly learned that donating time to talk to students about what we do significantly impacts them and changes their perspectives on potential careers.
I sat down with Hardin Valley Elementary STEM Educator, Jessica Everitt, to find out how donating time to speak to students positively impacts their lives and to learn why more companies should participate in STEM programs.
Brooke McGee: So what does STEM mean?
Jessica Everitt: Stem is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But that’s actually a funny name because those are all fields of science.
McGee: What do you do in a STEM class?
Everitt: It’s more of problem-solving and critical thinking class and getting students to solve their problems in a logical way. And when you think about that with a kindergartener, that’s kind of a different way of looking at stuff: how to take steps to solve problems instead of jumping to “I think I know the solution!” It’s about really thinking through the problem, understanding the problem as a whole, and then moving to the solution.
McGee: How do the companies visiting STEM impact your children?
Everitt: Well you already know about Andrew’s visit. The little boy wanted to be a baseball coach, and now he wants to work for GRIDSMART. It’s so fun. He loves playing baseball, and now he wants to do this. It’s fun to see that shift happen in their thinking.
Getting to see their pride change too is another thing. We have kids who have parents with a background in construction. And usually, we never hear them talk about their parents. All of a sudden, we’re doing a construction task, or we have their parents at STEM night, and they’re sharing what they do. The kids just light up because they are proud of what their parents are doing for the first time. For the first time, they understand the value and importance of that.
There’s feedback that goes with the understanding of who is present in your community and how much we are all interconnected and dependent on each other, no matter how little you think you are. I have students who say, “Well my mom just stays at home.” So I say, “Does she cook? That’s STEM. That’s a science skill.” Getting these children to see the value of these skills and the people around them, I think that’s a big way companies impact them. I’ve seen the kids grow in their respect for each other’s opinions and their respect for their parents in a lot of ways. They’re more excited to say “My mom does this” or “My dad does this,” and that’s been really rewarding too.
McGee: Why should more companies get involved with STEM programs?
Everitt: As a nation, we have a lack of skilled workers in certain fields like Geographic Information System (GIS), software programming, and other related fields. We don’t know what jobs are coming up, but we know they’re going to require more technical skills.
What can we do to fill that gap? The only way to see benefits for your company economically is to start gearing your workforce towards those fields. You do that by making students aware of the positive experiences in STEM fields. If a kid can put a face and positive experience to what your career is about, they’re twice as likely, at least, to want to choose that career.
It also shows the communities they work in how much they care and how invested they are in the people they serve. Because that’s another thing that came out of STEM. The parents were just floored at how many companies were willing to come out and share their knowledge and expertise with their kids.
McGee: How do more companies get involved?
Everitt: Most states have a STEM network because STEM is a growing field where they have yearly conferences. But reaching out to schools and saying you’re interested in speaking to the students can make a difference too. We had a local company reach out to us and say they were interested in partnering with a school for a STEM program and wanted to know if we were interested. We took them up on that, and we’ve done some great projects together since the beginning of the school year. Really getting professionals in there with the kids to have a positive interaction with them goes so far with our students.
Another way to get involved is to donate. A lot of schools need funding for projects too, so if you don’t have time, there’s always a chance to donate.*
Still need convincing why you should donate your time? Here are a few facts from ACT.org:
- Workers in the STEM fields continue to be in high demand
- Studies predict that STEM-related jobs will increase by 8.9% between 2014 and 2024
- Not enough U.S. students are equipped for STEM opportunities
Are you going to invest in the future of your workforce? It only takes one positive interaction with technology to change a child’s life and their perspective on a career. That one positive interaction could be YOU.
For more information about how to get invovled with STEM programs, contact your local school district.