Can you imagine?
Today’s parents can’t even envision the specifics of the jobs our children will pursue – the jobs for which are so dedicated to preparing them. But we do know that the high-paying jobs of tomorrow’s American economy will be overwhelmingly engineering intensive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineering is expected to grow enormously as a profession over the next decade and to offer more than 125,000 jobs each year by 2026. Unfortunately, though we can’t imagine what our sons and daughters will do at their dream jobs, we’re all too aware that American elementary school students receive far too few meaningful math and science experiences. Teachers report feeling underprepared to teach science, and most parents aren’t able to bridge the gap.
The Good News
Engineering will certainly play an enormous role in the future of the global economy, and with America having fallen behind its one-time world-leader status in the realm of science, there’s plenty of ground to be made up. In order to even recognize engineering careers as a possibility, most kids must encounter the idea at school. Having recognized this untapped opportunity, organizations across the United States are working on local and national levels to get engineering into elementary school. Since engineering isn’t a standard component of the elementary curriculum, this can be tough, and it requires professional development for teachers in order to be successful. However, groups from NASA and PBS Kids to universities and municipalities are making strides in the right direction.
An Ounce of Oversight
Over the last decade, countless initiatives to expand early access to STE(A)M education have emerged. Now, thanks to studies scrutinizing those efforts, future students will benefit from those who went before them. The goal, after all, is to teach kids about science and get them thinking about how to solve problems like an engineer. One such study observing the Museum of Science’s Engineering is Elementary curriculum demonstrates the importance of teaching the engineering design process, highlighting connections between engineering, science, and math, and helping students learn from failure. Organizations like the National Science Foundation are conducting similar research in an effort to prepare American schoolchildren to take the lead in science in the 21st century.
Bringing it Home
As you can see, there’s a bright future ahead for students who access quality STE(A)M resources and set their sights on related careers. Still, as a parent, you don’t have to wait for engineering to be integrated into your child’s elementary school curriculum. Here in New York, kids can start having positive, play-based STE(A)M experiences as early as age 3 at FasTracKids learning centers. Our two-hour per week, two-year enrichment program enhances child development and supplements regular preschool, Pre-K, or kindergarten. Our summer pre-school, STE(A)M Academies, and camps bridge the gap and prevent the summer slide. In addition to using a hands-on, interactive, inquiry-based approach to teaching fundamental STE(A)M concepts, the program explicitly encourages children to explore different careers in science, technology, engineering, art, and math.