Today, November 8, is National STEM Day, and now more than ever we must recognize the need to foster our youth to pursue careers in the sciences. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) job opportunities in the U.S. are growing. In the next ten years. STEM jobs are slated to grow 13 percent compared to 9 percent for all other jobs. By 2022, there will be a projected one million new career opportunities for individuals who are STEM literate or have STEM degrees. Still, half of these jobs will require less than a 4-year degree. As we look to the future of our economy and our workforce, STEM education – and specifically chemistry – is a critical part of driving innovation to improve and advance our everyday lives. For students to consider a path in science, early access to hands-on science experiences is critical to building the excitement and value of chemistry in their lives. And that's why every day must be STEM Day to engage young minds in the exciting field of chemistry.
Research shows that students have negative misconceptions about science as early as kindergarten. They believe it is too hard, not interesting, or that they do not fit the typical image of a scientist. By fourth grade, most students spend less than three hours a week on science activities; by eighth grade, 66 percent of students are rated as below proficient in science. Part of the problem? A staggering 61 percent of elementary school teachers do not feel well prepared to teach science.
The Chemical Educational Foundation® aims to build the excitement and value of chemistry and STEM careers with K-8 students through our accessible You Be The Chemist® (YBTC) science programs and hands-on experiences. By introducing science early, our goal is to connect the dots between today’s students and the STEM career opportunities available to them in the future. Our YBTC Essential ElementsSM program provides educators with science education best practices professional development. After participating in a YBTC Essential Elements teacher training workshop, 84 percent of educators report having significant confidence in teaching hands-on science. Greater confidence means better instruction and emphasis on science in the classroom. We all know it only takes one great hands-on experience for a student to begin considering a STEM path.
CEF Trustee Dr. Calvin Emanuel of Shell shared, “I had a chemistry teacher, Mr. Fletcher Williams, who taught me what chemistry was and how chemistry was a part of everything we did. Chemistry to me was exciting, and it opened up a new world for me coming from a small school in South Carolina. It was then that I decided I wanted to be a chemist or chemical engineer. Ultimately, I earned a Ph.D. in Physical Organic Chemistry.”
The variety of STEM careers and cutting-edge scientific research that our industry partners represent are vital to CEF’s mission of connecting chemistry with real-world opportunities. Their support enables the continual growth and improvement for all of CEF’s programs. Right now, CEF is amid a month-long fundraising campaign to raise $100k from STEM-champions, and we challenge you to invest and empower the educators of today. They are the boots on the ground inspiring students to become tomorrow’s thinkers, innovators and STEM leaders to building a better world through the science of chemistry.