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STEM Education Essential for Snohomish County Economy

Monday, September 24, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Samantha Livers
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STEM Education Essential for Snohomish County Economy
by Vervia Gabriel, Mountain Loop exPress Staff

(LYNNWOOD) ...Economic Alliance [Snohomish County] brought business and education leaders together on September 13th at Edmonds Community College to discuss the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in Washington State.

Edmonds Community College President Jean Hernandez emphasized STEM education as a way to grow a local workforce and stay competitive in aerospace.  Hernandez was followed by the Executive Director of Washington Alliance for Better Schools (WABS), Emily Yim. Yim told the audience the mission of STEM education is, "Preparing our Children for the 21st century.” WABS brings school superintendents together with business leaders in a collaborative process to focus on STEM education in the Puget Sound area.

Mark Lewis from Washington STEM said the goal of his organization, which is funded by the Washington Business Roundtable, is to help the public understand the importance of STEM education. "The education pipeline is not working yet,” he explained, saying we are currently, "over-producing an under-prepared work force."  Graduates need "technical skills and knowledge,” to be ready for 21st century jobs, according to Lewis.

Washington STEM emphasizes education, pre-K to college, to develop STEM talent.  They have a variety of grants available to help schools and support programs outside the school system. Washington STEM awards classroom grants of $2,000 to $20,000 to "advance a new generation of innovators," Lewis said. Larger grants of $25,000 to $200,000 are designed to "advance programs that work."

They are also working on developing an inquiry-based  curriculum, using real-world  challenges.  This approach would emphasize effective collaboration and teamwork to solve problems, which is very different from the traditional style of education. "STEM involves real-world issues and it requires kids to struggle for answers,” Lewis said. "I think we take the struggle out of the education system, and that's a disservice to our kids."

Lewis acknowledged the challenges and barriers to STEM education in the classroom, saying, "Teachers do not have the time in the regular school day to do STEM projects.” He added, "Businesses have the same issues, as they struggle to get the job done with limited resources, but the two must come together to develop the workforce.” Lewis explained there is a perception that STEM education is only for high performers.  He said, "STEM is all about the questions, not the answers.  It should lead to inquiry and curiosity,” adding, "STEM is for everybody.” Lewis encouraged industry to get involved with youth by volunteering their time through mentorships and community partnerships.

Click here to read the whole story on Mountain Loop Express

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