Improving STEM Education

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On the Wednesday January 24th, 2018 edition of WITF’s Smart Talk:

The careers and jobs of tomorrow will increasingly rely on science, technology, and math skills.  Throw in engineering and STEM education becomes even more essential when preparing students for their futures.  But are students receiving the quality STEM educations they need to thrive and compete?  

The National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 report, released last week, found that the United States is the global leader in science and technology (S&T). However, the U.S. global share of S&T activities is declining as other nations — especially China — continue to rise.  And American students are scoring only in the middle-of-the-pack compared to other nations in science and math.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced the creation of a STEM ecosystem.  It consist of collaborations between educators, businesses, museums and science centers and community organizations to help cultivate and nurture student engagement with STEM studies.  It is the fifth such effort in the nation.

However, standards that include STEM subjects were devised during the 1990s in Pennsylvania.  Much has changed in technology since then.  Is it time for an update?

On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, we look at how STEM education has or hasn’t kept up with the lightening pace of tech advances  with Jeff Remington, a science teacher at Palmyra Middle School and a National Science Teachers Association / National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Teacher Ambassador.  We will also be joined by Dr. Christine Royce, a professor of education at Shippensburg University and President of the National Science Teachers Association.

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Jeff Remington – Palmyra Middle School science teacher and National Science Teachers Association-National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Teacher Ambassador / Dr. Christine Royce – professor of education, Shippensburg University and President of the National Science Teachers Association


– 1. The US will never be a STEM leader until we spend more than 45 minutes every other day on science in elementary school. This is the reality if my fourth grader. The science that is taught is totally unconnected to any other curriculum.

2. I appreciate STEAM, the A standing for Art. Art is so closely related to science and those whose minds excel in science often excel in art. I worked with many students at Carnegie Mellon University who proved that point again and again.                               – Theresa, Mt. Joy

– Could the guests comment on the importance of a STEM curriculum being included in the very early years of education – like in Pre-K.  I’ve seen studies showing how the seeds of science and math begin in those early years.    – Steve, Lebanon

– Mr. Remington was my science teacher in 2001, and one of my favorite teachers.  While I didn’t end up in the STEM field, he inspired a lifetime curiosity and a love for learning.  Quality STEM teachers are so important for inspiring a passion for science and a desire to pursue careers in the STEM fields.  We need to focus on the problem public schools are having finding and retaining quality young educators (i.e. cost of college education, school funding, teacher pay).                                                                                – Nick, Wormleysburg

– Regarding emphasis in Biology. Biology is THE building block for many of the important medical fields, whether as a physician or nurse; or for much of the research being conducted to find cures for many of rhe horrific diseases we are battling in the 21st century, such as cancer, alzheimers, cystic fibrosis.  – Edward, Strasburg

– Scott – the original State Board of Ed policy on Keystone Exams were to include tests in Chemistry and Physics. Funding and the testing backlash forced these tests to be put on the back burner.         – Jim Buckheit, Former Exec Director, State Board of Ed

– Could your guests give their thoughts  on the recent inclusion of arts in STEM?    – GK

– As background, I have a minor in engineering, but majored in History. I went to to get my PhD in History and have taught college for ten years at two institutions. I have great respect  for my collegues in STEM, but there’s a reason that the liberal arts curricula at universities demand students understand more than just the technical skills required for a job. They will have responsiblities as citizens and as people, where things are important, but can’t necessarily be quantified. How does this STEM push cooexist with these skills where what matters can’t be measured?  – Ed

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