Preparing Kids for Tomorrow’s Jobs U.S. Companies Pair Scientists with Schools
by April Thompson
“For example, the kids maintain an en- gineering journal of the challenges they experienced, to help them troubleshoot the next time.”
Leapin’ Lizards is one of 34 STEM
programs nationwide awarded funding through the 2011 Ashoka Changemak- ers’ Partnering for Excellence competi- tion, backed by U.S. corporate heavy- weights like Google, ExxonMobil and Amgen. Many participating companies are investing in STEM school program- ming to fill the pipeline of homegrown talent for potential future hires.
Career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math are projected to grow 70 percent faster than other occupations—with 2.4 million job openings in those fields during the next six years.
hat’s great news for tomorrow’s job-seekers. Yet, most American youth are matriculating out of
the country’s schools ill-equipped to compete for these high-tech, high-wage jobs; among developed nations, U.S. high school students currently rank 23rd in science and 31st in mathemat- ics. Now, hundreds of schools are working to better prepare students by harnessing outside resources to reinvig- orate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula in class- rooms and afterschool programs. Forget rote memorization of the periodic table of the elements that previous generations may equate with science class. Kids in STEM programs are designing video games, program- ming robots and building solar cars— fun, hands-on, practical projects that add zest to technical subjects. The extra excitement helps, because many STEM programs extend the school day, either as a mandatory late-day module or an optional afterschool session.
14 Central Arkansas Edition/Little Rock
Psyched about Science Kids like Camerino Sanchez-Park can’t get enough. “Robotics helped me learn a lot about science and battery-powered objects and engines,” says this fifth-grader at Faller Elemen- tary School, in Ridgecrest, California. “The best part was working with the cool, high-tech robots. I would defi- nitely do it again!” Sanchez-Park is one of 87 youths
psyched about science as a result of hands-on afterschool programs run by a local nonprofit, High Desert Leapin’ Lizards. It taps the brainpower of scientists and engineers from a nearby naval base to instruct in subjects like renewable energy, chemistry and robot- ics. Rather than focusing on abstract concepts, students create working windmills or robots capable of tackling obstacle courses.
“It not only sparks an interest in
science, it teaches them how to think like a scientist,” says Program Admin- istrator Sandra Goldstein Birmingham.
Citizens Off the Sidelines Another Ashoka winner, Citizen Schools, sees the challenge as a supply- and-demand problem that includes a lack of teachers trained to meet the cur- rent needs for STEM education. Con- sider, though, the 10 million profession- als currently working in related fields, and Americans have a system-wide solution. “If we can put just 1 percent of them in the classroom, we could more than double the math and science teachers in the country,” advises Man- aging Director John Werner. Citizen Schools recruits corporate
volunteers from the ranks of top tech- nology, architecture, finance and other fields to lead afterschool “apprentice- ships” for disadvantaged kids in public middle schools. Participating states include California, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Texas. Collaborating on real-life problems in small groups develops more than tangible skills, attests Marianne De- Modena. Her sixth grade son, Christian Deguglielmo, completed apprentice- ships with Google at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and with invest- ment advisors Cambridge Associates, both in Boston.
“Christian came home a different
kid,” says DeModena. “It’s brought out his leadership abilities, school pride, social skills and confidence… it’s really opened up this other side of him. He says Citizen Schools is his favorite subject.” The program’s success is more
than anecdotal: A longitudinal study by Policy Studies Associates, Inc. found
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