About STEM


Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (STEM)

“Look what we take for granted in our everyday lives: the Internet and cellphones, MRI scanners and microwave ovens… cancer treatments made from bacteria we've programmed for benevolence. All these American innovations and thousands more come to us from science, mathematics, engineering, and technology—no, let's rephrase that: They came to us from people schooled in those disciplines and from people associated with them who supplied the entrepreneurial energies and capital that the scientist, engineer, and technologist may have lacked.

The men and women who will make America's tomorrow are in school and college today. They are the human capital at the core of any productive economy. And here's a fact about them. There are too few of these people in the scientific disciplines. America, the leader, now lags.”
Mortimer B. Zuckerman, editor in chief, U.S. New & World Report, Sept. 27, 2011

What is STEM?  
At its simplest, STEM education strives to teach core concepts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but STEM education, as a whole encompasses much more.

                     At its best, STEM …

  • Is interdisciplinary, rigorous and links students to real-world challenges
  • Emphasizes process and design as well as hands-on activities, with a goal to develop problem solvers and critical thinkers
  • Is a creative process that fosters an “I can do” attitude; it recognizes the value of failure
  • Serves all students

Think About It!
Science and technology are embedded in the fabric of our daily lives – from the food we eat, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, the latest, hottest app taking the world by storm.  Our students are incredibly proficient at using the products of STEM, but most are ill-prepared for the opportunities and jobs available in this science driven, engineered world. Remember, STEM is not just learning a set of facts or memorizing a process: it is an understanding of how individual objects, processes, or systems operate. It is also a way of thinking, approaching problems, and sustaining a sense of wonder.

What does a STEM classroom look like?
A Framework for K-12 Science Education, offers a glimpse at the possibilities. Consider cross-pollinating Career & Technical Education (CTE) & traditional academic subjects by combining the content and rigor of academics with the hands-on opportunities of a shop class. Think of STEM as a time and place where students are expected to use their math and science skills to question, investigate, tinker, design, build, analyze, rebuild, invent, persevere, innovate, collaborate, make a mistake and try again. 


- Demand is growing for STEM skills and jobs

U.S. jobs that demand technical training are growing five times faster than those requiring no technical training.  (National Math & Science Initiative)

By 2018 there will be over 8,000 job openings in STEM-related jobs in Alaska (2,700 new STEM jobs and 5,400 more openings as workers retire), and this data does not include the fastest growing occupation sector – health care.  (Alaska Dept. of Labor, Economic Trends, Feb. 2011)

- STEM jobs pay well

According to the Alaska Department of Labor, STEM workers in Alaska earn an average of $73,000 a year, $28,000 more per year on average than non-STEM workers. (Alaska Economic Trends, Feb. 2011)

- U.S. students are losing ground relative to other countries

The U.S. isn’t #1 anymore.  In fact, the U.S. doesn’t even make the top 10 list in science or math literacy among 15 year olds worldwide. (National Center for Education Statistics)

- Students are graduating from high school ill prepared for college or technical training in STEM fields

In 2010, of Alaska’s college bound high school students taking the ACT test, 54% did not meet college-readiness benchmarks in mathematics and 69% did not meet benchmarks in science (ACT, 2010)

- STEM skills are increasingly important to access living wage jobs

By 2018 economists project that some 90% of U.S. occupations will be middle or high-skill, with most requiring STEM skills and more than a high school diploma.  (Bureau of Labor Statistics & Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce)

     STEM engages students with a solutions oriented approach; it offers hope in the face of local and global challenges and relentless stream 
     of global crisis and bad news

Next Steps

- Invest in effective STEM programs that build career and technical skills

- Offer opportunities for students to explore the engineering process, from elementary grades onward


Study Finds that Graduates with an Associate’s Degree in STEM Earn More Than Those with a Bachelor’s Degree in Non-STEM Occupations
-Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: October, 2011