More and more I realize that having a scientifically literate public is imperative. As much as we hear news stories about new jobs and economic relief that STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) will have on our nation and our lives, the truth is, if individuals aren't ready for these great new, high-paying opportunities then that idyllic life will pass them by. Scientists and Engineers don't pop up instantaneously. Access to these careers are cultivated with curiosity and requisite educational skills.
Simply put, you can't expect an 18 year kid to enter college and sail out 4 (or 5) years later with a degree in STEM if s/he wasn't ready for the rigors of study from day one. That's a sure way to disappointment. Hard work will be at play and much of it begins before high school graduation. The good news is that accessing STEM isn't a one-time-only on-ramp, but individuals must be prepare to bare down and kick it into high gear. But none this can really take root widely if large segments of our communities are completely alien to STEM (or education). A public that has a pretty decent grasp at science - and can distinguish it from pseudoscience - and can debunk sensationalized claims are in a better position to take advantage of these new opportunities. This has a positive impact on families for several generations. So, I see how science outreach matters so much for achieving the larger science parity goals.
Adults who value education and STEM will provide an encouraging and supportive environment for their children to pursue opportunities in these fields. A Twitter friends asked how can non-scientists play a role in this and it was then that I consciously realized that we, Scientists/Engineers, need some non-scientist/engineer allies. (And I'm hoping that includes some journalists, too.)
In order to create this next generation of STEM professionals, each individual that believes in STEM education should give their time and/or resources to support STEM education. ~ Tokiwa T. Smith, Founder of Science, Engineering, Mathematics Link, Inc. (Read more about her STEM outreach efforts and be inspired by her work at Blacks Give Back.
I think the best way to support STEM education is locally, in your own community and neighborhood.
Promoting Hyper-local Science events
Inspired by an interesting Twitter chat on the complex and important issue of increasing science literacy to under-served audiences, some one asked how can she, as a non-scientist help promote science in her communityThank you @NYLocavore for asking this VERY important question.
Storified by DNLee· Sat, Feb 23 2013 11:42:13
Additional resources to supplies and professionals to help you 'pull off' any of those ideas can be found online. Some of my favorite include:
1,000 Scientists - database of scientists and engineers who are ready and willing to present to your classroom or let you tour his/her lab.