High School Student Speaks: How to Improve STEM Education


The Art of Science Learning is a superb blog about STEM education. Their posts provide us with insights from experts in science education. What would a young science student have to say?

An avid reader of Science cover to cover, this Letter to the Editor is one of my favorite pieces, written by a young High School student from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. What do you think?

I believe that Mr. Krolik is off to a great start!

As published in the May 6 issue of Science:


Bringing Research into the Classroom

As a high school student looking to pursue science, I was happy to read J. Durant and A. Ibrahim's Editorial "Celebrating the culture of science" (11 March, p. 1242). I feel that engaging the public in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is an often-overlooked aspect of bringing STEM into the mainstream.

I believe that before there can be a revolution in STEM education, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way our culture and society embrace STEM, beginning with the youngest age groups. STEM taught in the classroom should be reinforced at the dinner table and on the school bus. Presently STEM is regarded by both students and teachers as a static subject, instead of appreciated as an interactive and dynamic field.

To help cultivate an infectious interest in STEM, I believe that the idea of celebrating STEM should proliferate into the classroom. I propose a graduate school-style approach to primary and secondary school STEM education.

This curriculum would not focus only on the core material, but would also emphasize current research in each subject. I think that a freely available journal publication that takes groundbreaking current STEM reports and edits them for a younger audience should be created and integrated into the classroom.

Incorporating journal discussions in the classroom would stimulate the teachers who choose the papers and pique the curiosity of the students. Only then, when students are self-motivated by curiosity to study STEM, will they go on to achieve STEM excellence.

1. Aaron Krolik, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA; E-mail: aaron.b.krolik@gmail.com

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Actually something similar is already being tried (at my son's public high school); a bi-weekly homework assignment is to find a science item in recent news (newspaper, web sites) and then report on it in a short written summary and oral report. That is along the lines of Mr. Krolic's proposal, and feasible right now.
Even with the best teachers and methods, it is still difficult to overcome the cultural bias of teenagers, who tend to denigrate nerds. That means that it is important to get the kids interested at an earlier time.--
Another problem is that parents and teachers are often intimidated by STEM topics (unless trained in such), and therefore may avoid discussion of it.

Then, here in Silicon Valley, the older kids observe that their STEM-trained engineer or scientist parents are often working very hard, but are still at the mercy of the business cycle, and their jobs are getting outsourced. But some entrepreneur, who cashed out just before the crisis hit, is set for life. And even the Chief Legal officer of a company seems to get a bigger salary than almost all engineers, not to talk about the CFO, or bankers. So there's certainly no more materialistic motivation to study STEM subjects.