Despite continued growth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, a shortage of qualified job applicants in the U.S. remain; only 16 percent of college graduates major in the STEM fields while U.S. officials estimate more than 1.2 million job openings by 2018.

According to the International Society of Automation (ISA), students from other countries, such as China, Taipei, Russian Federation, and  Japan, outperform U.S. eight-graders in science and math. And when students struggle, their disinterest in STEM grows. A study of high school students performed by the Business-Higher Education Forum  showed that only 17 percent of high school seniors were proficient in math and interested in STEM fields.

STEM fields drive innovation to create new products and processes that sustain the U.S. economy and remain competitive globally. Right now, we’re falling behind. But parents can play an active role in helping the country catch up. It’s never too soon to get kids excited about these subjects. In fact, research recommends that concerted efforts to engage learning start in early elementary school.

Inspiring an interest in STEM

Parent’s can try the following ideas for engaging their children in STEM education:

  • Hands-on, interactive activities can help pique kids’ interest by making the subject come alive and connect math and science to real-world experiences.
  • Introduce children to role models in STEM fields. Job shadowing exposes students to the day-to-day duties of those in STEM careers and can help them think about a path they might want to pursue.
  • For older students, point out that STEM careers often lead to better paying jobs and career stability. The Georgetown Center found that, “over a lifetime, the earnings of workers who have majored in engineering, computer science or business are as much as 50 percent higher than the earnings of those who major in the humanities, the arts, education and psychology.”
  • Students may also be motivated by the fact that the STEM fields can help “eradicate disease, improve the environment, and power a brighter future.”
  • K12 has many interactive online games and activities that can engage students in science and math and help increase excitement for these subjects.

Image credit: Collections École Polytechnique / Jérémy Barande / CC BY-SA 3.0

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