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Why STEM Matters in Middle School

Hannah's picture
By Hannah, 04/11/2016 - 17:41

Hello everyone! My name is Hannah and I’m currently a high school senior. My passions have always revolved around science and math, just how there is one right answer, how you can apply one idea to many concepts to solve a problem. You know, I see problems every day, math problems, friend problems, family problems. 

Honestly, one of the main problems I see is at my sister’s school, my former school. I’ve had an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) since the 7th grade, but there were rarely opportunities to apply myself. You can easily sit in a desk all day and learn the theory but never experience the application possibilities, particularly in middle school.

Of course, there will always be kids who want to sit and zone out during class and never actively participate because it’s not “cool,” but for every few of those kids there are others who want to actively learn. The interesting part about STEM is it applies to all areas of study, whether or not you join a typical STEM career.

Think about all the middle school kids you know right now. The majority of middle schoolers are deciding their career paths (studies show up to 95% of kids!) in those three short years. I personally have known since the 7th grade that I wanted to be an engineer, but unsurprisingly, there were only a few other kids in my class who even thought about it as a career path. We, as teachers, mentors, siblings, and inspirations are losing kids every year in middle school to other fields.

People entering the STEM field, particularly girls, are extremely low. Luckily I experienced some Lego Robotics (FIRST Lego League) in the 8th grade, which lead the way to me joining robotics and engineering in high school. It allowed me to express myself, innovate with a competitive aspect, and realistically show my creative side. Despite having these advancements at my old school, improved even more since I’ve been gone, there’s still work to be done there and at schools everywhere. The lack of education regarding STEM in middle school does not allow for any challenges, and for the middle school mind, is the only reason to actively participate in anything.

In high school, my hands on experience in STEM radically increased. I go to a school that’s K-12, so I had girls in my class who’d been there since they were two years old! I got an amazing opportunity to participate in robotics, continuing from my 8th grade experience, although quite different.

High school robotics involved more tools and parts that you could easily use in a real job someday, in a lab. So going from Legos to metal robots was a huge step that I was not prepared for. Feeling that transition from middle school to high school and realizing it was going to be harder than I thought it was going to be made me realize that the middle school system needed a change regarding STEM. It’s quickly become one of my passions, working with grade school kids interested in STEM and robotics, and I think with the right tools and passionate people, the system could be changed. These kids are the future of our world, and preparing them for the real world helps build a better one.