Five Steps Communities Can Take To Strengthen a STEM Education Program

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The U. S. is losing its place as the world’s leader in science and technology partly because "we’re losing the battle in our classrooms," says Dr. Aaron Smith, STEM education program director and author of a new book on STEM education.

How to develop a successful STEM education program

New book by Dr. Aaron Smith provides guidelines for successful development of a STEM education program.

“Dr. Smith uses his experiences with real students and their stories to illustrate his ideas about how to make a STEM school work."

Although the latest projections show that the rate of job increases in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields (STEM) over the next five to seven years will outstrip rate increases in non-STEM positions, Dr. Aaron Smith, author of “Awakening Your STEM School,” says that the country may not be able to meet the demand for the larger job-ready workforce unless communities focus on improving STEM education and attracting more students to science, technology, engineering and math.

“We’re just not inspiring enough of our students to consider careers in STEM fields—particularly minority and female students, according to the 2015 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index.” Overall, statistics show that less than one in five U. S. high school students have an interest in STEM careers,” Dr. Smith said. “A successful STEM program is one of the best investments any community can make not only to provide high-skilled workers, but also to tackle the problem of high dropout rates.

In his book, Dr. Smith presents a detailed approach to STEM school development and administration, but here he cites five major steps communities can take to strengthen STEM education programs and create highly successful STEM schools:

1. Identify exactly what it is the school is trying to improve upon—Schools need a laser-focused approach on what parts of STEM that they are going to strengthen. This can range from increasing expertise in the field to better materials to changes in the curriculum.

2. Get as much support as possible from inside and outside of the building—In order to make a positive and lasting impression, there has to be buy-in at all levels and not a top-down only approach. The more ownership there is in the change, the higher the chances of its fusing with the day-to day-norms.

3. Create a Technical Panel—Experts from the field need to be involved in any curriculum. Whether it is taking time for a guest speaker or adding more real life applications, these professionals can accelerate a STEM school's growth.

4. Take time to capture the great stories and celebrate—All too often, the focus is on the negative aspects rather than the positive attributes and successes of what is being done. It should be completely the opposite. Success is vital to the life of any culture and must be celebrated.

5. Continue to build on the future with a fluid vision—If the school’s vision and mission change constantly, then it will never have the chance to be on the cutting edge. This actually increases the degree of separation from school to career and makes it more difficult for graduates to adjust when they enter the workforce.

Written with Bud Ramey and published by Koehler Publishing, “Awakening Your STEM School” is based on Dr. Smith’s experience as program director of the nation’s second largest “Aviation Academy” (a Newport News, VA magnet school for high school students interested in STEM careers in aviation). The book is available in paperback and eBook through Amazon and Barnes & Noble and on Apple iBook. For more information and a preview of the first two chapters, go to

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