San Francisco Museums Spark Kids’ Interest in STEM

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama announced over $240 million in new private-sector commitments to inspire and prepare more girls and boys to excel in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. These commitments are just part of a nationwide effort to increase growth in STEM fields.

Curently, the growth in jobs that require STEM skills will outpace all others within the next ten years, yet more than 3 million STEM job positions are currently vacant. With only 16 percent of American high school seniors proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career, we have to find and fix the disconnect that may limit opportunities down the road.

Two Bay Area museums are doing just that – creating engaging programs that spark kids’ curiosity and encourage them to explore.

The California Academy of Sciences offers engaging resources and programs like Digital Playshops, where students have the opportunity to develop science and technology skills, the TechTeens community, which empowers youth leaders to utilize digital media to develop and communicate science stories for the public, and many more.

The organization also offers training intended to help students understand the scientific process of developing and testing ideas, and gain a greater ability to evaluate scientific evidence. Advocates say these standards will revolutionize STEM education in the U.S.

Megan Schufreider is the assistant director of teacher and student engagement at the California Academy of Sciences and her team teaches science in a more practical way. “The old way of teaching science in the classroom was a mile wide and an inch deep,” says Schufreider. “The new curriculum is more about melding the content with science practices. Applying core concepts in all sciences empowers students to be proficient by doing something rather than just knowing something.”

The Exploratorium is another source of education for kids and adults alike, offering The Tinkering Studio, which experiments with science, art, technology and “delightful ideas.” Mike Petrich, director of the museum’s Making Collaborative, believes that “everybody can be creative. Everybody can be a maker.”

The Exploratorium offers an environment in which anyone can walk up to an exhibit, be drawn in and get inspired to explore the subject further. “If we’re doing our job right, you’re going to want to continue to explore it,” says Petrich.

Like the programs in San Francisco that are making STEM-related endeavors more accessible than ever, Verizon Wireless provides the education community with access to a wide range of digital content in sciences and technology. Verizon is committed to helping parents and teachers inspire more students to get involved with STEM through programs like the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy and Girls Who Code.

Do you have a favorite STEM program in your area? Tell us on Twitter @VZWHeidi.