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According to Minnesota Department of Education data released in 2006, only 11 percent of eighth graders and 21 percent of tenth graders expressed interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
If the United States is going maintain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace, these statistics have to change, soon. The staff at the Science Museum of Minnesota is determined to help turn the tide.
“When China graduates more engineers than the U.S., we should be concerned,” says Dr. Eric Jolly, president of the Science Museum. “We need to get young people inspired about math and science to put them on track for opportunities in the future.”
The Science Museum is encouraging education at every level, from teacher training and development programs to summer science camps, and is establishing community partnerships and coalitions advocating for quality K-12 STEM education.
However, the Museum makes it biggest impact by welcoming more than 120,000 students visiting every year. Science Museum leadership acknowledges that a love of science, technology, engineering, and math often starts at a young age–many times with a trip to the Science Museum.
“Kids have a tremendous amount of curiosity, and the Science Museum creates a sense of efficacy, a sense of wonder,” Jolly says. “We try to get kids excited about the things they’ll experience back in the classroom.”
Jolly points out that despite expensive curricula, if students don’t feel engaged they’re going to grow bored and lose interest in STEM subjects. And if the United States hopes to maintain leadership in a technology and science-driven world, educators must keep alive and encourage children’s natural curiosity.
Inspiring students at a young age to explore STEM subjects is only a piece of the total puzzle necessary to ensure a competitive global workforce, gainful employment opportunities, and responsible civic participation. But it’s an important piece of the puzzle.
According to Jolly, “This literacy, science literacy, is the future of our children. We’re proud to be bringing hands-on experiences in science, technology, engineering and math to about one million visitors annually.”