The future success and leadership of the United States lies in the hands of our educational system. Students attaining degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are contributing to a big-picture solution for many of today’s problems.

With the recent release of this year’s global innovation index (an inclusive study identifying the most progressive countries in the world), it's clear that the United States has fallen short of its reputation. Compared to other developing countries, the U.S. is behind in terms of mathematics and science literacy as well as innovation-based competitiveness. With hundreds of thousands of unfilled STEM jobs in the American job market, there has never been a better time to emphasize the importance of STEM in our K-12 education system.

Methods to integrate STEM education into K-12 learning include the application of model-eliciting activities (MEA) and project-based learning (PBL); both of which combine creative thinking, problem solving, and self-critiquing in symbiotic fashion.

  • Model-eliciting activities are open-ended, realistic, and self-assessable. They focus on practical applications such as judging a paper airplane contest or identifying a subject of theft.
  • Project-based learning is built around hands-on projects and teamwork assignments and is characterized by the phrase “learning by doing.” The five-step PBL process of reflection, research, discovery, application, and communication further enhances the effectiveness of the education process.

With these activities and other methods for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math, K-12 educators can help foster STEM education interest for future students around the country and the world.

To learn more about STEM education and its importance, watch the video below, provided by the University of Cincinnati’s Master of Education Online Program

(Editor’s Note: We will be publishing articles in upcoming months that address both model-eliciting activities and project-based learning. These and other best practices apply, with appropriate support and design, for higher education and adult education as well as for K-12.)