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Oct 20, 2016 04:34 AM EDT

STEM Summit 4.0: Bridging the Gap in STEM Education

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Last week Scientific American and Macmillan Learning held the STEM Summit 4.0 at the New York Academy of Sciences with the theme: The Power of Data. The Summit brings together educators, government employees and entrepreneurs to discuss and eventually, develop strategies for engaging students in STEM topics.

According to the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment survey, the U.S. has been struggling to keep up when it comes to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The survey placed America on 35th and 27th out of 64 countries in math and science respectively.

Strategies for reaching learners early in their STEM education - as early as preschoolers, were discussed by Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, the Senior Vice President of Curriculum and Content for Sesame Workshop. Dr. Truglio explained that during their preschool stage, children are natural STEM learners but it is the parents' job to ensure that kids are in the right environment that will keep them engaged and support their learning.

The Sesame Workshop uses Grover as a "spokesmonster" because he often fails. Dr. Truglio says that the point of scientific inquiry is learning from mistakes.

Prominent women in STEM were also in attendance including Mary Gromko, president of the National Science Teacher's Association and Donna Nelson, president of the American Chemical Society.

There was also a panel discussion on the importance of teaching women STEM. It had the following highlights:

  • Terri McCullough, Director of the Clinton Foundation's No Ceilings: The Full Participation Program noted that there are fewer women studying STEM now compared to 30 years ago.

  • Blair Blackwell, Manager for Education and Corporate Programs at Chevron said that the deficit in women wanting to learn STEM is because of the lack of missing role models but emphasized that parents don't need a STEM degree to encourage and empower their daughters to take up STEM courses.

  • Dr. Meghan Groome, Senior Vice President for Education at the New York Academy of Sciences suggested remote mentoring for students. This will also be beneficial to underprivileged STEM learners.

  • The government is also working to raise awareness on the lack of women in STEM, said Krishanti Vignarajah, Director of Policy and International Affairs for the White House's office of the first lady.

The event closed with a lecture from Nobel laureate Paul Krugman who discussed globalization, technology and the demands of the new economy. Krugman said that in STEM today, quantity beats quality. While tests scores are not exactly the best metric to gauge success in STEM education, those with the highest ones are doing well in the global economy.

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