Arizona organizations expose students to STEM outside of the classroom

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs are in demand and the need to fill jobs is growing. Arizona SciTech Festival and the Arizona Science Center work to expose students to STEM outside of the classroom.

According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), “STEM-related jobs grew at three times the rate of non-STEM jobs between 2000 and 2010.”

The SSEC website also said that by 2018, it was projected that 2.4 million STEM jobs would go unfilled.

Students are exposed to STEM subjects in academic settings, but organizations in Arizona want to do more.

Students in Arizona have the opportunity to engage in fun, informal STEM-related activities, which can pique their interest in the subjects and consider pursuing a career in STEM.

Arizona SciTech Festival, an initiative of the Arizona Technology Council Foundation (ATCF), helps organizations engage the community with STEM expos, workshops, conversations exhibitions and tours. 

“We partner with organizations throughout the state, and the festival is kind of our main partnership-driven opportunity,” Jeremy Badendure, ATCF executive director, said. “Collectively, these organizations put on hundreds of events that engage the public, anywhere from students to adults, in science and technology.”

Babendure explained that Arizona SciTech Festival posts science and technology events on its calendar to help “really provide a portal to what’s going on with STEM throughout the community.”

In addition to the many events Arizona SciTech Festival supports and promotes, it also hosts its own festivals.

“Really helping to integrate STEM learning into that free choice environment is a really important and unique way to really complement the education that’s happening in schools, but provide a real-world relevance to it,” Badendure said.

Engaging with STEM in a fun and informal manner not only strengthens students’ academic skills, it allows them to interact with peers and build problem-solving skills.

Communicating with peers, solving problems and trying new activities helps students develop soft skills, which will also benefit their future career endeavors.

Beth Nickel, Arizona Science Center chief learning officer, said “A lot of what science does is it helps kids to realize, in a lot of ways, there’s not just one right answer and it’s OK to fail.”

She also explained that the center’s activities also incorporate collaboration, presentations in front of peers and other tools that help the children develop skills that will make them career-ready.  

The center’s Teen Science Scene engages teens with a variety of science and engineering activities. Some of these activities include Biochemical Evolution, DNA Crime Scene and Luminescence Light Show.

Nickel explained that the center is focused on helping teen-aged students participate in fun, educational activities.

In addition to Teen Science Scene, “we have our teen advisory board, which is a group of high school students actually that work with us. They are charged in creating activities that would appeal to their peer group. So, teens developing programs for other teens.”

The Arizona Science Center offers programs and activities for children and teens of various interests.

“We really want to entice youth and children in engaging them in STEM and really look at how we can provide activities that build on that innate curiosity that everyone is born with,” Nickel said. “Everybody wants to learn about the world that they live in. How can we keep that curiosity alive?”

Sierra Ciaramella

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