Today (November 8th) is National S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. Day. It’s a day for parents, teachers, and school administrators to consider how they can better engage their students in science, technology, engineering, art, and math, and for students to explore the S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. subjects and imagine which related careers they might most enjoy as adults. Pets in the Classroom (PITC) is excited about S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. Day and the role that classroom pets can play in this exciting educational initiative.

Today’s emphasis on S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. subjects is important for a number of reasons. First, S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. careers are on the rise. Nearly all 10 of the occupations that the U.S. Labor Department has predicted to be the fastest growing in the coming years are S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. related. Additionally, careers in science and engineering are growing 70% faster than careers in other fields. Second, the U.S. has fallen behind other countries in S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. education. In order for the U.S. to more effectively compete in the world’s economy, it is essential our students receive an education that competes with that which is offered by the world’s other top nations. A third reason that S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. education is so important is related to gender equality. A goal of the S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. initiative is to help close the gender gap in S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. careers by fostering interest in those subjects among female students.

Why the distinction between S.T.E.M. and S.T.E.A.M.? The S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. initiative began simply as “S.T.E.M.”—an acronym used in the Netflix original children’s series Project Mc2, which is sponsored by MGA Entertainment and encourages kids to take interest in the S.T.E.M. subjects. It was the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) that added the “A” to the acronym in order to draw attention to the often overlooked significance of art and design in education.

The date for S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. Day is actually a pun, which, like the name of the initiative itself, is taken from Project Mc2. In the show, a group of four young girls act as spies for a secret organization called NOV8. Pronounced “innovate,” NOV8 is the reason that S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. Day falls on November 8th.

As we seek to inspire the next generation with science, technology, engineering, art, and math, we must think creatively about how to best captivate young minds with these subjects using the teaching resources that are available to us. At PITC, it is our belief that classroom pets can greatly enrich the S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. learning experience by engaging students in a way that is achievable by few other teaching tools. Children who are generally disinterested in school are more likely to participate in class when a classroom pet is involved in the activities. This kind of student engagement is particularly important during S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. lessons. Fortunately, classroom pets have the potential to enhance a wide variety of lessons plans, especially those in S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. subjects. For instance, lessons about the diet, growth, and behavioral patterns of classroom pets inherently incorporate S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. subjects, as do research and writing projects about students’ findings.

This S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. Day, try incorporating your classroom pet into your lesson plans! Don’t have a classroom pet? Apply for one of our teacher grants to get one! Together, we can inspire students to find their passions in the subjects that will most shape the future of our nation and our world.

Bibliography

NATIONAL S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. DAY – November 8. (n.d.). Retrieved November 07, 2016, from http://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/national-stemsteam-day-november-8

November 8 is National S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. Day. (2015, November 5). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/november-8-is-national-stemsteam-day-300173696.html

STEM to STEAM. (n.d.). Retrieved November 07, 2016, from http://stemtosteam.org

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