According to a recent study conducted by Emerson, students are choosing to skip science and math classes because they don’t understand the career opportunities in those subjects. The study revealed that 42 percent of participants would have considered an education in STEM if they had a better understanding of the careers a STEM education could lead to. One-third of the participants didn’t pursue a STEM-related career because they thought it was “too hard.” All in all, so many members of our youth are missing out on life-changing opportunities.

One of America’s top online science educators, YouTube star Hank Green, believes that engineering and science classes are the starting point for students wanting to make a positive impact on the world. “I’m working with Emerson and the basic idea is to make connections between innovations and the people that created them,” he says. We asked Green a few questions that will help parents and students gain a better perception of STEM education and provide feedback for children on the opportunities available.

Learning Liftoff: Can you explain the importance of STEM education? What are the common misconceptions about STEM that you hear a lot?

Hank Green: It’s a good thing for the world, it helps critical thinking, and it’s likely to provide a career placement path. Some of the misconceptions I hear and that we have in today’s culture is that scientists are robotic type of people, which is what you often see on TV, but in fact, it’s a really creative career. The scientists I know are very creative people and [they] all like different types of things. Most of what I find is that when scientists run into a problem and see something that is difficult, they dive into that issue until they can figure it out rather than walking away.

LL: Some kids may not pursue a career in a STEM field, how can STEM activities benefit these children and make them well-rounded?

HG: I think it’s a great framework for understanding the world. I think that can be understated. Understanding how we’ve gotten the knowledge that we’ve gotten. This is human knowledge of reality that we’ve synthesized ourselves and the tools we’ve used are robust. I think it’s really important to help us understand our place in the world a little better. I also think that it’s also really good to be able to be the kind of person who dives into something that’s difficult. And that’s going to be important whether you’re into science or not.

LL: What is your advice to parents who have children with the same science and technology interests as yourself?

HG: For me it was very important to have support in this in my house and in my school, to have support for my natural curiosity, and I think that’s important. And if parents aren’t particularly interested in science, then parents can tap into other resources. When a kid asks a question that we don’t have the answer to, the Internet is there for us to find out answers to these questions. As we know more, we only get more curious.

LL: What’s the number one question that you’re always asked in every interview?

HG: It comes in every direction. I never know. I was once asked, ‘if I weigh 99 pounds and I eat a pound of nachos, will I be one percent nacho?’

Green is an entrepreneur, musician, educator, producer, and vlogger. You can learn more about Green on his YouTube channel Vlogbrothers.

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