By Michelle Talsma Everson
STEM – it’s a popular buzzword in education today. But, while many buzzwords may be passing fads, STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is the one of the main pillars of our children’s education and our state’s future.
“STEM education is an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to learning that provides hands-on and relevant learning experiences for students,” according to the Arizona STEM Network, a part of the Science Foundation Arizona, (www.sfaz.org/stem-stem).
Jeremy Babendure, the executive director of the Arizona SciTech Festival, adds, “STEM-based activities provide fun, informal opportunities to explore the world around you and see how science, technology and innovation are all around us.”
Not only do students benefit from STEM learning in the short term, but STEM skills are in demand in the job market as well. In fact, according to Change the Equation, a national group dedicated to improving STEM education, there are 1.7 STEM-related job openings for every 1 unemployed person. In non-STEM related fields, there are 4 unemployed people for every 1 job opening. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that career openings in STEM fields will double by 2018. In addition, the skills learned through STEM classes can translate successfully into other subject areas.
So, how does this relate to summer? According to the National Summer Learning Association, students can lose more than two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer. Luckily, there are ample resources available for Valley families to keep their kids interested in STEM during the summer and beyond.
One great resource is the Arizona SciTech Festival website at www.azscitechfest.org. While the festival itself took place earlier this year, the website is home to a continuously updated events calendar that showcases STEM-related family events.
There are also a myriad of museums and places for kids and families to discover this summer. (And yes, they’re air conditioned!) Love sea creatures? Visit SEALIFE Aquarium in Tempe! Crazy about butterflies and all things that buzz? Check out Butterfly Wonderland. In addition, the Heard Museum is hosting a LEGO exhibit, the Arizona Science Center is home to a variety of events, and much more.
Added to that, this summer the Maricopa County Library District is hosting their annual Summer Reading Program, but this time, with a STEM twist!
“This summer we’re taking on science in a big way with Fizz, Boom, Read! While we can’t cover every scientific topic, there are a variety of programs, events, and fun for all ages where participants can hone some practical science skills!,” cites the library district’s website. “Observe, measure, compare, explore, and predict! Have fun and explore what your libraries have to offer through programs, books, and other media.”
Learn more about the Summer Reading Program at summer.mcldaz.org.
Valley Museums and Attractions
Arizona Museum of
53 N. Macdonald, Mesa
Arizona Science Center
600 E. Washington St., Phoenix
9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale
Children’s Museum of Phoenix
215 N. 7th St., Phoenix
2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
150 W. Pepper Pl., Mesa
The Musical Instument Museum (MIM)
4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix
5000 S. Arizona Mills Circle #145, Tempe