What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Rather than be taught conceptually, there is an increasing emphasis being put on the practical application of STEM concepts. And rather than be taught as individual subjects, science, technology, engineering, and math are increasingly being integrated to demonstrate their interconnectedness to youth.
STEM education is meant to foster a youth’s love for using STEM to solve everyday problems in their world, provide exposure to a broad array of STEM-related careers, and prepare youth to become globally competitive.
Exposing youth to STEM-related activities out-of-school time allows them to learn experientially by engaging in hands-on activities that require the practical but fun application of concepts learned in the classroom.
Informal STEM learning in out-of-school time supports formal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics learning by engaging youth in activities such as robot building, video game development, rocket construction, hot air balloon experiments, insect identification, and much more!
“Nearly 80% of future careers will require some STEM skills. A stimulating STEM education is essential for developing the basic analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking skills central to academic achievement and workforce readiness in the 21st century.”
“STEM education is an intentional, multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and learning, in which students uncover and acquire a cohesive set of concepts, competencies, and dispositions of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that they transfer and apply in both academic and real world contexts in order to be globally competitive in the 21st century.”
“Students who regularly engage in meaningful, enjoyable but challenging science and engineering programs in afterschool report more positive attitudes toward science and a greater interest in ‘becoming a scientist’ when they graduate from college. African American, Latino, low income and female students as a whole are generally less interested in science and their parents are less represented in the STEM workforce than other groups.”
“…afterschool programs offer an ideal setting for nurturing the potential scientist in every student, as well …as reinforcing the science taught during the school hours. Compared to the school day, these programs’ smaller groups, longer time slots, and less formal settings provide opportunities for young people to visit museums, study neighborhood environments, cultivate gardens, perform field and laboratory experiments and have their love of discovery awakened in countless other ways.”
“…Afterschool programs are proven to teach the so-called ‘soft skills’ of communication, problem solving and team work, which young people need in any given career. Making use of the hours after school for STEM activities gives students time to develop an interest in science, which is key to getting students into STEM careers.”
“Out of school time programs may be better able to engage girls when they try to relate STEM activities to the girl’s age group, interest in particular STEM subjects, preferred mode of learning, and ability level. Tailoring this experience is especially helpful in engaging girls who otherwise might not be inclined to engage with STEM subject matter.”
“The old economy was driven by workers who were skilled with their hands and who could reliably work in repetitive and sometimes physically demanding jobs. In the New Economy, knowledge-based jobs drive prosperity. These jobs tend to be managerial, professional and technical positions held by individuals with at least two years of college education. Such skilled and educated workers are the backbone of states’ most important industries, from high-value-added manufacturing to high-wage traded services.” Arizona ranks 16th overall.
Why is STEM important in Out-of-School Time Programming?
Quality out-of-school time programs bridge the gap between formal and informal learning environments by expanding on classroom learning with hands-on, project-based activities. OST programs provide the perfect setting for youth to dive deeper into STEM subjects; exploring academic concepts experientially, sometimes without even realizing it.
Too many Arizona students are graduating high school unprepared for college and the workforce. STEM learning in out-of-school time programs enables Arizona youth to develop the critical thinking, communications, and problem-solving skills to participate in the increasingly competitive global economy.
Youth who participate in hands-on STEM programming may perform better academically and discover a better attitude towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines than students who do not.