Computer Science (CS) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are popping up all over. The media tells us there are STEM career opportunities for students in abundance. Teachers write blogs about the pros and cons about teaching CS and engineering. Industry debates about the STEM jobs pipeline. Researchers and politicians announce a shortage of future employees. It is wonderful to have this much chatter about these important fields, but one group’s voice is being overlooked: students!
There is a group of students who inherently love engineering, who are excited by creating code, solving problems, understanding how technology works and being inventors. They are driven, motivated and informed. It is fun to work with these kids. There is a bigger group of students who, for a variety of reasons, do not gravitate to these subjects, but these students may still find STEM skills useful in a future career. Many of them would enjoy the creative problem-solving of engineering—and they won’t know unless they choose, enjoy, and stay involved in engineering coursework during middle and high school. That’s the teacher’s job.
Encouraging diverse participation in STEM in middle school is crucial. Students who do not have STEM opportunities in middle school and high school are very unlikely to take those opportunities in college. We are committed to offering creative learning experiences and the best career opportunities for all kids. How do we recruit and retain a diverse student body in elective STEM classes such as computer science and engineering?
For your students who don’t typically identify as “engineers”—many female and minority students as well as some boys—what motivates them to sign up for, and become invested in, an engineering class or activity?
While we don’t claim to have completely cracked the code, focusing on this effort has made us better, more culturally inclusive teachers, and we believe our students will be better off in the long term because of sustained efforts to broaden access to CS and engineering.
Education is an amazing field to work in. Teachers inherently love to share their knowledge and to help others succeed. We are determined to hone our practices, keep talking to and keep learning from our students—and hope to hear your successes! It’s a large effort, but very rewarding to encourage all kids to learn computer science and engineering whether it is for a future career or for their own self-confidence and growth as problem-solvers!