INSPIRING STEM EDUCATION
Science Fairs are an excellent way to inspire innovative young minds to something they view as significant in our world. Some of you may have read the recent article in the Tribune discussing how science fairs are being cancelled around the country due to budget cuts. Well something has to go, right? Why not the science fairs? I want to tell you why not. Many people think this country is the most technologically advanced in the world. It is not. Many people think our educational system is the best in world. It is not. And, many people think we can just keep doing what we have been doing and things will get better. NOT! Your future and your children's future here in America will depend on making sustainable changes in how we educate them.
Education at any level must strive to prepare its graduates for acquiring jobs that will contribute to the continued progress and productivity of our society. It has been predicted repeatedly that the vast majority of jobs, available in even the near future, will be applications of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that we MUST provide an educational system that places a greater emphasis on the STEM fields to prepare ALL students to be competitive in such a global technological market. Alarmingly, California budget cuts and an overemphasis on state testing mandates have led to less time being spent on important concepts and skills in science and mathematics at all grade levels. Our high school scores on national science and mathematics tests are mediocre compared to other countries. Our universities turned out half of the scientific PhDs in the world in 1970, now we turn out less than 15%.
I hope you can begin to appreciate why canceling the Science Fairs, and really any STEM related courses, activities, or events, is detrimental to our future. We are officially in the midst of STEM education crisis and everyone will be affected by how we deal with it. So how do we deal with it? How can we give students the knowledge and the motivation to leave our schools with the necessary skills to enter the brave new world?
Whether you are a parent, teacher, principal, or member of a school board you need to become an advocate for STEM education. Encourage your children to get involved with STEM related activities in school or out of school. SLO county still has lots of local science fairs, science clubs, math clubs, and robotic clubs. Consider attending the inspirational STEM Showcase which is being hosted this year by the SLO Discovery Institute and the Grover Beach Exploration Station. Take your child to science museums or just sit with them to watch and discuss interesting programs on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. One fascinating feature, called "That's Impossible" on the History Channel, highlights innovative technological discoveries of the past few years. It's time to excite our children in ways that will positively and productively impact our future.
Derrick Lavoie, Executive Director