Increasing access and opportunities in STEM is crucial, experts say – Harvard Gazette


Studying STEM subjects, she continued, teaches critical thinking skills and instills a mindset that will help students succeed in many fields and disciplines. However, Long said, “Too often the opportunity to learn and be inspired by STEM is not available.

“Only 20% of high school graduates are prepared for college courses in STEM majors,” she cited, adding that “less than half of high schools in the United States even offer computer classes. So this begs the question: will children be ready to face the changing and growing landscape of STEM professions? “

While STEM education opportunities are often scarce for high school students in any field, they are even more prevalent when you consider how unevenly access is distributed by income, race, origin ethnic or gender. For example, Long said, “Native American, Black and Latin students are the least likely to attend schools that teach computer science, as are students in rural areas, and [those with] economically disadvantaged areas.

“It’s no surprise that these differences in educational opportunities lead to very large differences in what we see in the workforce. We are excluding students from opportunities, ”she said.

So what can be done to ensure that more students from all walks of life are exposed to a wide variety of opportunities? According to the dean of the Graduate School of Education Academic Dean Martin West, who is also a member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, a concerted effort is being made at the state level to work with – and through – teachers to convey to students the breadth of STEM opportunities and assure them that “it’s not all just sitting in front of a computer or in a science lab, but showing them that there are STEM opportunities in a wide range of fields”.

The relatively recent emergence of digital platforms, such as LabXchange, is helping to bridge the gap. LabXchange is a free online learning tool for science education that allows students, educators, scientists and researchers to collaborate in a virtual community. The initiative was developed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University and the Amgen Foundation. It offers a library of varied content, includes a biotechnology learning resource available in 12 different languages, and applies science to real-world problems. Teachers and students across the country and around the world can access free content and learn wherever they are.

Many panelists also highlighted the need for regular funding to help address inequalities.

“Ultimately, if this nation is to be a competitive leader in STEM, it needs to revitalize its vision of what it needs to do, especially in public schools where most blacks and browns are found, in this regard. which concerns the production of the human and the physical. infrastructure for teaching STEM, ”said Joseph L. Graves Jr., professor of biological sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Graves is also a member of the faculty steering committee, LabXchange’s Racial Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Science Education Initiative.

The panel noted how LabXchange is partnering with academics from several historically black colleges and universities to develop new digital learning resources on anti-racism in education, science and public health. The content, which will be available for free and translated into Spanish, is funded by a $ 1.2 million grant from the Amgen Foundation. In addition to the highly successful LabXchange program, Mike Edmondson, Vice President, Global Field Excellence and Commercial, Diversity Inclusion & Belonging at Amgen, highlighted the Amgen Biotech Experience and the Amgen Scholars program, both of which help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to engage in science and see yourself in a STEM career.

We also need to do a better job of helping people understand that we can’t afford to fall behind in STEM education, Graves argued. “It means it’s going to cost us money. So America must be prepared to pay… “We must have a new vision of how we prepare students to think critically about the world… as well as to educate a society in such a way that it has a scientific culture. “

Amanda Dillingham, a science teacher at East Boston High, is at the forefront of this challenge and says she believes supporting teachers is one of the most critical steps that can be taken to address the problem in the immediate future.

When more funds are put on the table, teachers “are able to coordinate networks… and build biotechnology labs in our classrooms and build robotics labs in our classrooms…. and are actually able to introduce students to [these fields and these careers] at a very young age, ”said Dillingham, who is also director of the science and biology program, LabXchange.

Long and the panel also paid tribute to Rob Lue, the inventor of LabXchange, who passed away a year ago.

“Rob challenged science learners, scientists and educators to make a commitment to end racial inequalities,” Long said. “Access was at the heart of all of Rob’s many contributions to education at Harvard and beyond. He envisioned a world without barriers and where opportunity was available to everyone, especially in science. In everything he did, he created an environment in which learners of all ages and backgrounds could come together to imagine, learn and engage in live exchanges. Rob’s free online science learning platform was his broadest vision and continues to inspire educators and learners around the world.


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