The Solution to the STEM Crisis Begins at Home

Last week I started writing about my experiences at the National Science and Engineering Festival (NSEF). I highlighted some of the STEM Heroes and Heroines that made the event such an amazing success. Tens of thousands of kids were inspired by the incredible demonstrations, exhibits, and presentations offered at the festival. Congratulations to Lockheed Martin for sponsoring this amazing event!

The National Science Teacher’s Association Exhibit at the NSEF

This week, I want to commend a different set of stars, the parents who brought their children to the festival. I was excited to see so many parents passionately engaged with their children at the exhibits. As a teacher it was uplifting to see parents cheering on their children and encouraging them to think, explore, and learn. As a STEM Educator it was fascinating to see parents exhibiting (or rediscovering) their inner geek for their children. It gave me hope, while reminding me of the important role that parents play in helping children to form a confident STEM identity.

Catalyzing America’s domestic STEM Heros and Heroines

At the NSEF I encountered several domestic STEM heroes and STEM heroines – parents who were so passionately geeky that their children could not help but be excited about everything around them. One of them, Christine Merrill, an engineer turned stay-at-home mom with three children was so earnest and ebullient about her passion for science. She helped me to realize that one of the most important benefits to possessing an outstanding STEM education is its impact on the quality of your family life as an adult.

A passionate STEM heroine inspires her children

Too often in discussions of STEM education policy, we tie STEM education to issues of workforce readiness and the economy. As a result we constrain the benefits of STEM education, defining them in terms of individual attainment and measuring them in terms of the pursuit of knowledge or income. Christine Merrill’s engagement with her children and their engagement with the Festival illustrate the benefits that result from sharing math, science, technology, and engineering with children. It can be as fun and exciting as scoring a goal! We (the STEM Education Community) should be doing a better job of preparing adults (moms and dads) to share the joys and challenges of STEM subjects with their children. We need to broaden our vision of the benefits that accrue to society from high quality STEM Education – it is about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” both at home and in the workplace.

Christine Merrill, stay-at-home mom and Utah State and Purdue University trained engineer, you are a STEM heroine. Thank you for being an inspiration. We should keep you and your children in the front of our minds as we work to improve STEM Education in the United States. We need great scientists and engineers so that companies like Lockheed Martin can continue to solve complex problems. We need great teachers to help students learn concepts and skills. And we need great parents who can inspire their children to explore and to learn and to support them when they struggle.

Now for the fun part:

Way to go Merrills!!!

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