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Coupled with learning how to count coins, young students in more than 3,000 schools across the country are also learning about water filtration processes and structures. What struck me in the article was how excited both the students and parents are about the engineering curriculum.
Getting today’s students energized early on about math and science — and in this case, engineering — is a key step toward ensuring the United States is developing the next generation of science-savvy citizens and is a focus of the Obama administration’s Educate to Innovate campaign.
The challenges we face in ensuring that these excited kindergarteners, particularly the girls, grow up to become engineers is often led astray in the middle school years. By 8th grade, only half the number of girls report being interested in math and science.
Just as important as capturing students’ excitement about their newfound problem-solving and critical thinking skills, Engineering is Elementary is introducing kindergarteners to the term “engineering” and aligning it with fun, hands-on learning. It’s a subtle approach, but including “engineering” to their young vocabulary is an important part of addressing the misperceptions of what an engineer does and who an engineer is.
This approach to engaging students in science and engineering is also at the core of the work we do with the Sally Ride Science Academy brought to you by ExxonMobil. The program works with teachers at the elementary and middle school grade levels to showcase a diverse array of role models in science professions and equip teachers with tools to keep their students, particularly girls, interested in math and science careers.
According to the National Science Foundation, 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require science or technical skills. And while today’s kindergartners won’t quite be part of the workforce by then, educators, business leaders and even the president of the United States are continually working to impact their response to the age-old question: what do you want to be when you grow up?
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