If you work in the education field or have a school age child, you have probably heard the word STEM.
STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, addresses the application of knowledge and critical thinking skills to solve real world problems. This phrase has become a household name over the past several years as American students continue to leave high school unprepared to pursue STEM related degrees and career paths.
Studies show that as early as third grade students lose interest in math and science and that interest continues to decline through middle and high school if there is no intervention. In the Central Florida area alone only 20% of awarded degrees are in a STEM based field compared to 30% nationally and Florida is ranked 42nd in math and 49th in science in national testing.
The Orlando Science Center has been a community resource for over 55 years and understands the important role a science center can play in keeping children engaged in STEM areas. Over the past three years we have developed a wide variety of STEM programs and offerings designed to inspire students and teachers alike.
Through field trip programs, in-classroom programs and offsites, afterschool initiatives, and summer camps just to name a few there is a concerted effort to keep children engaged in STEM disciplines while also honing essential 21st century learning skills. These critical skills include team work, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Additionally, the Science Center has collaborated with the Boston Museum of Science to become an endorsed site for their nationally recognized Engineering is Elementary curriculum which allows us to train teachers and provide professional development opportunities to area school districts.
It is never too early to begin cultivating STEM interest in our children. The Science Center firmly believes in inspiring and supporting the foundational education of our youngest learners. In 2009 the Orlando Science Center launched our very own preschool. Young learners are natural scientist and through our preschool and other early childhood offerings we intend to build on this natural inclination to provide children with the skills necessary to succeed and excel later in school.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated, “For parents and families, libraries and museums are a go-to resource that supports them as their child’s first teacher. [These institutions] are trusted, welcoming places where children can make discoveries, deepen interests, and connect their natural curiosity to the wider world—developing the skills they need for a lifetime of learning.”