Integrated Learning Creates innovative problem-solvers
“I was attracted to science because of the vast arrays of studies – there’s something for everyone. I plan to use my education to not only better myself and find a career in a laboratory, but also to influence and inspire students to go into STEM education and find careers they’re passionate about.” Emily Jaremba of Saginaw is a first-year student at Saginaw Valley State University, majoring in science. She also is an intern at the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance.
The call for more education in these disciplines dates back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration. A month after the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of the first artificial Earth satellite – Sputnik 1 – caught American scientists by surprise, the former president created a Science Advisory Committee and called on Congress to strengthen American education, particularly in science, mathematics and foreign languages.
That focus on science and technology education has continued through the years. In 2011, during his State of the Union address, President Barak Obama heralded back to 1957 when he said, “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” urging the nation to ramp up not only technological innovation, but also asking educators to prioritize 21st century skills learning.
Today, STEM education is almost a household name and embraces Obama’s call for 21st century learning instead of solely focusing on any single discipline.
“STEM education incorporates the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics delivered in an integrated fashion, preferably using real-world learning experiences,” said Lori Flippin, STEM Initiative leader for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance. “STEM careers incorporate STEM knowledge and, in many cases, involve problem-solving to develop quick and cost-effective solutions in industry. STEM skills are required for a wide range of high-demand occupations, including engineers, scientists, computer technicians, health care workers, welders, chemical process operators, electricians and many more.”
Integrating the STEM disciplines and equipping students with a broad skill set will increase their value as the need for people to fill in-demand jobs is exceeded by the demand. Flippin said the current and future economy will be reliant on employees with STEM knowledge.
“We must do a better job of not teaching subjects in isolation, and there also needs to be more exposure to high-demand careers so we fill positions that are needed to have a successful economy,” Flippin explained. “The Great Lakes Bay Region currently relies heavily on STEM talent, but economic forecasts project an even more STEM-dependent economy in the future.”
STEM education – the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math – has taken center stage at K–12 schools across America in the past decade.
Since 1990, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79%
“The school I went to had activities in STEM, but it wasn’t until middle school and the Science Olympiad that I really got involved. Then my coach convinced me to join the robotics team in eighth grade. In high school, my teachers encouraged me to focus on STEM because there was a broad selection of jobs. As a senior, I decided that biomedical engineering is more relevant to me and provides more opportunities for me.
“In the short-term future, STEM education will help me in my college career, where I will take a STEM program. From there, STEM opens unlimited opportunities and enables me to see where I want to grow as a person.” Gabby Hugo is a senior at Bay City Central High School and was involved in robotics, but has turned her attention to biomedical engineering.
“Born into a family of doctors, I often accompanied my parents on their rounds. On several instances I saw people with disabilities that limited their ability to live a normal life. My frustration with the limits of medical technology soon turned into a desire to create more capable biomedical devices as my knowledge of STEM increased.
“Throughout my high school career, my STEM education has provided me with the knowledge and opportunity to build various engineering projects with one focus: helping as many people as possible. I hope to learn from the collaborative research, extensive knowledge and capable facilities found in biomechanics at engineering colleges and further my projects to help more people.” Neil Janwani is a senior at H.H Dow High School in Midland.
“I always thought of math as a set of rules and procedures that need to be followed in order to reach the desired result. Looking at math and physics together, I realized that this couldn’t be further from the truth. That realization is what ended up attracting me to math.
“My personal experiences in physics give me the ability to bring that context into the math classroom. Showing the direct application of math to an area such as physics can give students a reason to buy into math a little more.” Sarah Lapp of Mount Pleasant is a senior at Central Michigan University studying math education.
As long as the future of our economy is dependent upon STEM skills, there will be a focus on STEM education.
~ Lori Flippin, STEM Initiative leader for the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance
Since 1990, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79% – increasing from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, according to the Pew Research Center. That growth is expected to continue.
“Both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis say that STEM occupations will fuel future job growth in the region,” Flippin continued. “By 2020, nearly all STEM occupations in the region are expected to see growth, with healthcare and computers/math occupations leading the way with expected growth rates of 14% and 9%, respectively.”
In the Great Lakes Bay Region, Flippin said, the focus on STEM education has brought a number of entities together to enhance instruction and strategically analyze skill needs and career demand in the region.
“As an example, the STEM Passport project is one of a host of actions taking place in the GLBR. There are projects related to the promotion of skilled trades, computer science and a youth program called the Chief Science Officers through Saginaw Valley State University that develops STEM leaders to enhance opportunities in the region,” Flippin said.
She explained that more than 60 Chief Science Officers have participated annually in projects in multiple counties, over 3,000 students are impacted annually by ST math, and 34 new courses have been added in the region in computer science. In addition, early childhood programs with more than 30 partners working together have been created to increase access for students who tend to have fewer opportunities in STEM. Additionally, interactions with local businesses are on the rise for both educators and students to learn about careers.
Flippin explained that emphasis on STEM education is expanding on a regional, statewide and nationwide level.
“Last year our state added STEM networks across the state called, MISTEM networks, and the National STEM Ecosystem movement has grown to 89 communities around the world focusing on STEM,” she said. “As long as the future of our economy is dependent upon STEM skills, there will be a focus on STEM education. With the way technology is influencing most aspects of life, there seems to be no end in sight.”