By: Ibbe Ashruf
In an increasingly technology-driven world, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education is more essential and powerful than ever before. Many of America’s most promising fields for economic growth and workforce development are in the areas of STEM. The Smithsonian Science Education Center projects that 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfilled in 2018. These are jobs that could revitalize America’s current interests, both foreign and domestic. These high-paying careers not only could employ up to forty percent of America’s currently unemployed workforce, but also help make Americans more competitive in an already highly-competitive global environment.
The many advantages of a STEM education make it a priority for today’s parents, students, educators, businesses, and schools. Gilman has made updates to incorporate more STEM-oriented opportunities into its curriculum such as adding MakerSpace labs to the Lower and Middle Schools––spaces that aim to provide an environment conducive to innovation and hands-on science learning––computer programming fundamentals to its traditional technology classes, and most recently, opportunities in the areas of drones and aerial solutions to the Lower School. Mr. Tye Campbell, Director of Technology, has been newly appointed to the Board of Directors at ATLIS (Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools), a “professional network for technology leaders in independent schools, providing professional development, networking, and curated resources for members.”
But not everyone has been as quick to adopt new STEM initiatives. Not only has there been a lack of STEM education in many American primary and secondary schools, but there has also been a decline in recent years of STEM bachelor’s degrees, according to a report by the Joint Economic Committee. Many students, when considering higher education options, often cite a lack of confidence and preparedness for STEM degrees and instead opt for non-STEM degrees. This means that many students are pursuing degrees in fields that may not be as fulfilling or lucrative in the long-term simply because they feel that they lack sufficient preparation. This sentiment of unpreparedness is grounded in truth, as 69 percent of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level math or science, according to the National Math and Science Initiative. At the end of the day, it is not just the students who are missing out, as these missed opportunities also affect America’s workforce and its continued strides towards being number one in fields such as math and science. But there is a brighter future ahead for students, as business, governments, and nonprofit organizations work to establish better opportunities in STEM. Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, said, “I am extremely committed to STEM, because I believe that technology is important, that science is important, and when you talk about what we’re doing in the 21st century, it’s becomes even more important.”
There are several organizations that are working to fix the problems associated with a STEM education, many of which are located here in Baltimore. These organizations primarily engage students at younger ages, where support, resources, and curriculum are needed most. Baltimore-founded nonprofit, TeCanal, whose mission is to provide a comprehensive STEM education for all students, does frequent volunteer outreach in Baltimore and with Baltimore City Public schools. TeCanal has met with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and the Chief Digital Officer at the Mayor’s Office of IT, Mr. Frank Johnson, to discuss STEM initiatives and their mutual continued efforts for the improvement of STEM in low-income areas and Baltimore City Public Schools. The rapidly-growing nonprofit is now looking to tap into new volunteers, resources, and partners such as the Bridges program at Gilman, the Foundery, CityGarage backed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, and Johns Hopkins University.
Creating immersive, engaging, and inclusive experiences in the fields of STEM is more important now than ever before, and it is vital that Gilman continues to stay up-to-date with the way it teaches STEM. Gilman has made extensive efforts to do so, but more needs to be done with how Upper School students learn STEM. Additionally, Upper School students should make efforts to be part of the STEM revolution whether it be through volunteering at TeCanal or Gilman’s newest clubs that offer STEM opportunities. Clearly, the STEM disciplines provide great promise and opportunity for all students, and it is up to us, students, educators, and technology leaders to continue to foster the access and passion for STEM-focused ambitions.