Statistics from The Nations Report Card show that 34% of students are at a proficient level in science in 4th grade, 30% are proficient at grade level 8 and 21% are proficient at grade twelve. In addition, USA PISA Exam results show that among 15 year olds, we rank 25th in math and 21st in science (Bringing Stem Curriculum to the Forefront, WeAreTeachers.com). So, why is STEM curriculum needed? What is unique about STEM curriculum is it is not just about science, technology, math or engineering, but it goes beyond that, creating a comprehensive approach to learning. Stem involves students with project-based learning and inspires him or her to solve problems, and asks them to work with others to build real solutions.
Through project-based and authentic learning experiences, STEM encourages open-ended exploration, collaboration, problem-solving, decision-making, creativity and innovation. These are not new skills. Therefore, why is it important now to develop students capable of innovative thinking and problem solving when this is something that has always been important to teachers? What sets STEM apart? Global competition is becoming fiercer, and students need to achieve higher to stay ahead. It is a technology driven economy. New opportunities and new challenges are being created at a faster rate than ever before. 21st century skills are a contingency to entry and unquestionably needed for upward mobility. It's a rapidly changing world. Companies with multi-billion dollar valuations have emerged from nowhere and dissolved completely within the last 10 years.
Today's students need to be compliant and prepared. It's important to be college and career ready. Students must have technology and 21st century skills to further their educations and practice for jobs in this global, tech-based world. This includes everything from word processing to spreadsheets and also comprises of systems thinking, creativity, optimism, collaboration, communication and application to ethical considerations. Developing these skills is vital for life and career in the 21st century. Common Core Initiative and state standards must be considered. To meet these challenges, education is changing. Standards initiatives including the Common Core State Standards, TEKS, NGSSS, and others are asking for increasing rigor in education. STEM's focus on applying knowledge and 21st century skills meets the demand of these new specific standards. The academic benefits and student performance is something important. STEM and problem-based learning develop rigorous thinking habits and 21st century skills. STEM provides a meaningful context for learning scientific, mathematical and technological concepts. STEM increases involvement and motivation which results in increased comprehension. STEM asks students to apply knowledge which provides them with the opportunity to illustrate understanding and build procedural skill. STEM is confirmed to improve math and science results and make a real difference for students (http://www.learning.com/stem/).
PLTW is a non-profit organization and is the most well-known STEM education curricular program in schools across the United States. " More than 4,700 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are offering PLTW courses to their students in the 2012-13 school year" (Who We Are, PLTW). Also PLTW trains more than 3,000 teachers each year. Engineer courses for high school and middle school students and biomedical sciences courses for high school students are offered.
"Stem Makes Sense, We Make It A Snap." 27 September 2013. <www.learning.com>
"Bringing Stem Curriculum to the Forefront." WeAreTeachers.com. 8 April 2013. 27 September 2013. <youtube.com>
"Who We Are." PLTW. 27 September 2013. <www.pltw.org>