STEM–Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math–is quickly becoming the prominent pathway to success for America’s future economy. It has become more important than ever to introduce young ladies to STEM education, as only 1 in 10 of those in STEM careers are minority women. In last week’s Education Wednesday: Why You Should Know More About STEM, I suggested identifying role models, making science fun through activities at home, and urging participation in advance classes as great ways to encourage students to excel in these underrepresented fields.
Learning opportunities in the community can provide additional encouragement to the support you give at home. In fact, community-based initiatives in the form of after-school programs and summer camps are popping up across the country and leading the charge in preparing girls for a future STEM-focused economy.
I was recently tipped off to the relevance of local STEM efforts when a younger cousin, a bright girl in the 7th grade, recounted her summer spent participating in one such program here in Atlanta. My cousin beamed as she told me about algorithmic thinking, the computer game she designed, and her new aspirations to be a computer coder. I was astounded.
Increasingly, influential stakeholders such as the White House and technology titan Google are investing millions of dollars to fund programs aimed at promoting STEM to minority scholars. Recognizing that early exposure is key to igniting interest, these programs find innovative ways to bridge hands-on fun with advanced learning and skills. Initiatives such as Thinkersmith, Girls Who Code, Girlstart, and SCAT (the program my cousin participated in) may be providing STEM exposure to girls in your area.
Here are some quick tips for finding a program your daughter, niece, or student may enjoy:
Aundrea’s Tips for Finding A Fun STEM Program:
- Look to community centers: Locations such as the YMCA may offer STEM focused classes as part of a membership or even free of charge.
- Visit local universities and community colleges: With a vested interest in adequately preparing future college entrants for rigorous courses, higher education institutions often offer workshops and summer camps to help students gain early exposure.
- Find non-profits: Look for organizations in your area that specifically offer STEM programs. Here is a directory of STEM non-profits to give you a head start.
- Consider local businesses: Businesses in your area may offer special programs, especially if you live in an area with a large STEM industry.
More than 100,000 STEM industry jobs were added in just the first half of this year according to a report by the TechAmerica Foundation. Initiatives in your community can provide excellent opportunities for minority girls to become leaders of innovation. As you continue the STEM conversation at home, look around you for after school programs and summer camps that may give your little innovator a leg up in the future.
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.Are there any fun STEM programs in your area?