Even during this divisive age, most people can agree that the future of America rests on the shoulders of our children and the future into which they are headed is going to be increasingly driven by technology. To keep America competitive, we need to ensure that our children are prepared to function in that technological future. To do that, they need to be knowledgeable about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. The staff at Create & Learn notes, “National STEM Day is on November 8th and celebrates science, technology, engineering, and math throughout the United States. It’s a great day to celebrate because we know that an interest in STEM early on can lead to success later on in life. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics occupations are projected to grow over two times faster than the total for all occupations in the next decade according to the U.S. Labor Department.” The staff at Sphero adds, “Multiple studies have underscored the importance of expertise in STEM. The students of today have the power to transform future generations with their knowledge and understanding of these fields. And greater demand surges more than ever before for professional skills related to STEM subjects.”
This year celebrating STEM/STEAM Day is particularly important considering the fact that student math skills suffered dramatically during the pandemic. Daniel McGrath, the acting associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Education Department, observes, “These are some of the largest declines we have observed in a single assessment cycle in 50 years of the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] program. Students in 2022 are performing at a level last seen two decades ago.” Below I will discuss ways you can get involved to help our children get back on track so they can meet the challenges the future holds.
History of STEM/STEAM Day
The National Day staff traces the origins of the STEM/STEAM Day to the early 2000s. They note, “Studies in the early 2000s revealed that U.S. students were not achieving in the STEM disciplines at the same rate as students in other countries. The report predicted dire consequences if the country could not compete in the global economy as the result of a poorly prepared workforce. Thus, educators focused attention on science, math, and technology research; on economic policy; and on education. U.S. prosperity seemed to depend on it.” The staff goes on to report, “The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, a philanthropical organization based in southwestern Pennsylvania, found that U.S. educators were unsure of the implications of STEM, particularly when scientific and technological literacy of all students was the goal. Educators lacked in-depth knowledge of STEM careers, and, as a consequence, they were not prepared to guide students to those fields.”
These studies, bolstered by many others, led to the creation of STEM Day. The Days of the Year staff reports, “National STEM/STEAM Day was founded in 2015 by MGA Entertainment, with the intention of inspiring and encouraging students to be more involved in these fields of education, study and work.” The staff continues, “In today’s world, STEM occupations count for approximately 7% of the jobs in the United States, and this is likely to continue to grow. In fact, these roles play an important part in the country’s ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace in fields like medical science, engineering, sociology, information security and much more.” What the staff doesn’t note is that STEM skills can be used in almost every occupation in which a person may find themselves. Not every child is going to grow up to be a scientist, an engineer, or a technician. However, even in the so-called liberal arts, STEM subjects have a role to play — which is why the “A” for arts was added to STEM.
Celebrating the Day
If we want our children to succeed, we need to get them excited about science, technology, math, and engineering. Below are a number of activities that can help achieve that goal.
1. Interest your child in a STEM-related hobby. The National Day staff writes, “Whether it’s astronomy, computer gaming, woodworking, photography, or sudoku, chances are that many of your favorite activities have roots in STEAM subjects.” The staff at The Learning Counsel adds, “We know that project-based learning helps reinforce important concepts — let your kids create a program or mini-game explaining and exploring STEAM topics. … Learning is a lot easier when it’s driven by genuine interest. Ask your child what they’re curious about — whether it’s the ocean’s tides, groundbreaking women in history, or the life cycle of a butterfly — and help them explore their curiosity as they learn.”
2. Encourage their talents. You don’t need to push your children into the hard scientists to get them excited about STEM. The Learning Counsel staff writes, “Art has earned itself an A, turning STEM to STEAM. Don’t forget that the young artists in your household play an important role — the value of creativity is essential to every scientist and programmer out there. Kids who are more interested in the arts than technology (and vice versa) can absolutely branch into the whole STEAM spectrum.”
3. Make the day special. The Learning Counsel staff encourages parents “to make STEAM Day feel special.” One way of doing that is visiting a science or art museum in your area. If you can’t make an in-person visit, the Create & Learn staff suggests you make a virtual visit to one or more of the following online experiences:
Visit 3M: The Young Scientist Virtual Field Trip broadcasted from 3M’s World of Innovation shows 3M Scientists doing experiments you can only see at 3M World Headquarters. From the batteries that power your smartphone to the non-reactive fluid that keeps supercomputers cool and operational, you will get an in-depth look at how 3M science improves your daily life!
Visit a space center: Join Boeing and Discovery Education on a mission to inspire the world through aerospace innovation with an exclusive virtual field trip to historic Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This behind-the-scenes tour will introduce students to just a few of the amazing Boeing employees who are preparing to write the next chapter of space history with the launch of the Starliner/CST-100 spacecraft and the deployment of the Space Launch System (SLS).
Visit a recycling center: Take a virtual field trip of a modern recycling center. A network of highly trained specialists and sophisticated, automated equipment doing the jobs of sorting, packing, and shipping recyclable materials. Or go on a virtual field trip of everything from landfill construction and planning to gas-to-energy and environmental compliance.
Other online sites they say you might want to consider are: Museum of Science: A collection of STEM resources designed to bring the Museum — to you! National Museum of Computing: 3D and virtual curated tours let you explore the world’s largest collection of working historic computers. Speak to experts on the codebreaking machines of WWII, those maintaining the world’s oldest working digital computer — and more! And the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: Go room by room through a virtual version of every exhibition in the museum.
Clearly, that list of suggestions is far from exhaustive. Use your imagination — science and technology learning opportunities are all around you. The Learning Counsel staff recommends turning everyday occurrences into teaching moments. They explain, “If it’s raining, teach your kids about the how’s and why’s of the water cycle. During election season, spark their curiosity about how voting relies on math and percentages.” The teaching moments are endless. Happy STEM/STEAM Day.
 Staff, “National STEM Day 2022: 5 Activities to Celebrate,” Create & Learn, 20 October 2021.
 Staff, “What is National STEM/STEAM Day? Here are Six Ways to Celebrate,” Sphero, 2 November 2021.
 Associated Press, “Reading and math scores fell sharply during pandemic, data show,” NPR, 1 September 2022.
 Staff, “STEM/STEAM Day – November 8, 2022,” National Day, 2022.
 Staff, “National STEM/STEAM Day,” Days of the Year, 2022.
 Staff, “5 Ways to Celebrate National STEM/STEAM Day,” The Learning Counsel, 2022.