STEM to extend reach into rural communities
STEM: Coming soon to a town near you!
Every kid has dreams of being an astronaut, archaeologist, ‘hacker’, engineer, chemist… the list goes on. Unfortunately, not all education is created equal and some kids have had to abandon their dreams because of it.
In rural communities, it’s common to have less STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education than in urban centers. Because of this, a lot of rural kids have had to pass up their dreams. How can you become an astronaut if you aren’t the information and tools to get there?
Thankfully, as of early November 2019, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology introduced legislation that will enhance STEM education in rural schools.
What is proposed?
With this bill, many changes will be made to the way STEM is currently provided in rural areas. Teachers will be given more resources, opportunities for hands-on education will be available to students, the curriculum will be developed further, and access to technologies that we often take for granted will increase. Broadband internet, anyone?
Additionally, this bill will see the National Science Foundation (NSF) arranging a number of grants for the explicit benefit of those who encourage STEM education in rural areas. Specifically, these will be awarded to eligible providers of higher education and to non-profit organizations.
The NSF will also be establishing a peer support program for rural STEM educators. Teachers will be provided with peer support, mentoring, and hands-on research experiences in a bid to give rural communities the same opportunity for quality education as urban areas.
Who will benefit?
On a macro level, better STEM education in rural communities will impact the entire country. Knowledge is power, and by educating the youth in STEM – the country’s fastest-growing sector – we’re empowering future generations to shape their world. That’s a big one.
If you need more reason to rally behind this bill, there are also countless benefits on a micro-level.
More than 20% of all schoolchildren in the United States – that’s more than 9 million – attend rural schools. At these schools there’s a huge shortage in science and math teachers, a high teacher turnover rate, very few advanced STEM courses, and access to computer-based technologies are extremely difficult.
Currently, rural students don’t have the option to undertake advanced education in STEM. Because schools lack the resources needed to support students in these pursuits, all too often students are forced to abandon their hopes of becoming an astronomer/programmer/mathematician.
“Knowledge is power, and by educating the youth in STEM – the country’s fastest-growing sector – we’re empowering future generations to shape their world.”
This isn’t only bad because it’s stopping students from following their passions, but it’s also affecting the job market. STEM careers are growing faster than in any other sector. In fact, STEM is progressing at a rate that is far outpacing the current pool of skilled applicants. STEM jobs are sitting vacant because there aren’t enough people to go around.
By increasing STEM education in rural communities, students will be able to enter the workforce with a well-rounded education and complete further studies with the skills and knowledge required of them.
With this bill, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has allowed students in rural areas to dream bigger than they ever could before. Of course, there will always be more that needs doing – something that is especially true in education – but the opportunities this bill will create will impact America’s future for years to come.
So if you’re a student in a rural area, feel free to start dreaming bigger! You’ll be studying the stars, excavating dinosaurs, and creating robots in no time.
A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:
- What the shortage in STEM teachers means for the future of students | Science 101
Why is it so important to teach STEM? Find out here.
- A new survey looks at how much Americans actually know about science | Science 101
Where does your science knowledge stack up compared to the average American?