STEM in Elementary Education
Welcome to … the new BLOG space of the Aspire Institute at Wheelock College. This BLOG provides updates and reflections on key developments in social and education policy and practice. We’ll discuss everything from the latest in teacher education, online learning and social media, brain development research, to health care reform. We’ll profile promising models, social innovators, and inspiring leaders, and hear from Wheelock faculty and Aspire staff on the frontlines of social and education change. So grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and join the conversation!
In this first posting, we are excited to share Wheelock’s current efforts to improve elementary STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. In today’s professional world, STEM content knowledge and skills have become the ‘coin of the realm.’ The STEM learners of today will spur tomorrow’s innovations in healthcare and medicine, environmental science, education and other fields that will stimulate new economic growth, counter negative effects of climate change and pollution, and improve our overall quality of life.
There is growing consensus that STEM learning—and igniting a passion for STEM subjects—should begin in preschool and elementary school. However, improving early STEM learning will mean confronting a significant human resource challenge: too many PreK-6 educators are not well prepared for this task, lacking both strong math and science content knowledge and instructional skills. A large number of these educators are, in fact ‘math-phobic’ or ‘science-phobic,’ and do whatever they can to avoid taking coursework in these areas.
With funding from NASA, Wheelock has responded to this challenge by developing a sequence of accessible online professional development courses in STEM education for elementary school teachers that balance instruction in both content knowledge and teaching methods.
This is one answer – but is it enough? Are school systems ready to devote significant time to STEM instruction and require high STEM content knowledge? Are schools of education ready to require more STEM education coursework as part of their PreK-and elementary education teacher degree programs?
And will these changes help the math-phobic and science-phobic educators confront their fears head on?
To read more on these topics, check out this New York Times article entitled, "Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard)"
Jake Murray is the Senior Director of Aspire Institute. He has over 20 years of experience in the education, health and human services fields, serving as a program leader, policy analyst, and strategic planner.