Inspiring Young People to Pursue STEM Careers

loveSTEMBy Alex Gurn, Ph.D.

I recently attended, “Stories from ITEST – Culturally Competent Projects that Inspire Young People to Pursue STEM Careers.” The NSF-related webinar presented findings from some of the research in a special issue of Journal of Science Education and Technology, ‘Stories from ITEST: Inspiring Young People to Pursue STEM Careers’ ( REA’s Kristin Bass is co-author of one of those featured articles titled Designing the Game: How a Project-Based Media Production Program Approaches STEAM Career Readiness for Underrepresented Young Adults. The articles are not open source, but well worth the read. (Please feel free to email us to request an author’s reprint of Designing the Game).

Foremost, the webinar confirmed an assumption that I hold that productive STEM pedagogy cannot take place without a commitment to: 1) develop positive youth-adult relationships, 2) to support young people socially and emotionally, as well as intellectually, and 3) situate STEM learning in the context of young people’s life experiences, interests, and funds of knowledge.

Teaching STEM includes but is more than developing young people’s technical knowledge and skills. Educators need to situate STEM in the context of youth interests, prior life experiences, and funds of knowledge. STEM education should be approached through firsthand experiential approaches that allow young people to experiment with STEM topics and materials and engage in STEM practices. These learning experiences need to be relevant to youth’s ways of thinking and seeing the world (i.e. socially and culturally responsive). In this way, young people can be engaged in sustained STEM inquiry in ways that captivate their attention, nurture their interests, and respond to questions that matter to them…so that youth see STEM as meaningful and connected to their past experiences and future aspirations.

You can find the archived webinar here: