History of National STEM/STEAM Day
Studies in the early 2000s revealed that U.S. students were not achieving in the STEM disciplines at the same rate as students in other countries. The report predicted dire consequences if the country could not compete in the global economy as the result of a poorly prepared workforce. Thus, educators focused attention on science, math, and technology research; on economic policy; and on education. U.S. prosperity seemed to depend on it.
A 2006 study later showed that a comparatively large proportion of students underperformed in these subjects and that the country ranked near the bottom on assessments of scientific competency and knowledge.
The international comparisons fueled discussion of U.S. education and workforce needs. The bipartisan congressional STEM Education Caucus noted: “Our knowledge-based economy is driven by constant innovation. The foundation of innovation lies in a dynamic, motivated and well-educated workforce equipped with STEM skills.”
Further research uncovered the needs of school systems and guided the development of appropriately targeted solutions. The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, a philanthropical organization based in southwestern Pennsylvania, found that U.S. educators were unsure of the implications of STEM, particularly when scientific and technological literacy of all students was the goal. Educators lacked in-depth knowledge of STEM careers, and, as a consequence, they were not prepared to guide students to those fields.
The findings from several studies on educational practices encouraged U.S. state governors to seek methods to lead their states toward the goal of graduating every student from high school with essential STEM knowledge and competencies to succeed in postsecondary education and work. Six states received grants from the National Governors Association to pursue helpful strategies
Growth in America’s STEM jobs in the first decade of the 21st century tripled the rate of growth in non-STEM jobs. However, racial and gender gaps remained a problem. Employers continued to struggle with the need for qualified STEM workers.
National STEM/STEAM Day timeline
The College Board introduces college-level science courses for advanced high-school students: AP Chemistry, AP Biology, and AP Physics.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Arkansas can no longer ban the teaching of evolution. This effectively struck down an Arkansas state law.
Apollo 11 carries three U.S. astronauts to the moon, inspiring many to pursue careers in science. Extensive television coverage put this event into America’s living rooms.
The “Physics First” movement begins to grow, as teachers and scientists push to teach physics rather than biology in ninth grade — to allow more advanced study of biology and chemistry in subsequent years.
Per Scientific American: “A handful of legislators scattered across the country introduce more than a dozen bills that threaten the integrity of science education.” Writer Glenn Branch blames it on a desire to “undermine the teaching of evolution or climate change.”
National STEM/STEAM Day FAQs
What is STEM day?
How do you celebrate STEM day?
Encourage your kids to get curious about math and science activities. Start an effort to raise funds to help science teachers buy supplies.
What are STEAM activities?
National STEM/STEAM Day Activities
Find out which hobbies of yours are rooted in STEM subjects
Whether it's astronomy, computer gaming, woodworking, photography, or sudoku, chances are that many of your favorite activities have roots in STEAM subjects.
Brush up on your own STEM related skills
If there's one thing that's great about living in today's day and age, it's our access to information. There are hundreds of courses online that could help you brush up on your STEAM skills, many of which are offered free of charge from the world's best institutions, like MIT and Harvard.
Donate to your local STEM programs
Teachers everywhere struggle to stock their classrooms with all the materials they need to teach their classrooms, but you can help. If your child has "outgrown" some of their old supplies — whether that be an old calculator, a set of art supplies, or a retired protractor — a local school could probably make good use of it.
Why We Love National STEM/STEAM Day
It promotes important subject areas
In the coming decades, automation will play a major role in shaping the job market. Trucks will all drive themselves, store checkouts will all be staff-free, and many common jobs today will no longer exist. However, it'll be a lot longer before automation eliminates most of the jobs that come out of STEAM fields, so promoting these subjects is crucial to having a healthy workforce moving forward.
It creates a fun learning environment
Everyone can remember a math class that they struggled through, not because of the material, but because of how it was conveyed. A focal point of STEM and STEAM programs is to make sure that lessons are compelling, relatable, and fun for students.
It strengthens our country
Countries that place an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics are the countries where innovation happens — plain and simple. Any nation that seeks to be, or to remain, a world leader would be wise to have strong, compelling programs in place that help teach these subjects.
National STEM/STEAM Day dates