In education, STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Rather than acting as separate subjects, STEM itself is a blend of the four disciplines and are integrated into curriculum and instruction through real-world applications.
Therefore, STEM is substantially more than a blend of four subjects in school; rather, STEM is the future of equity and access to education and opportunities for underrepresented groups and underserved areas.
Students from underserved or underrepresented communities often face less or later access to STEM education, which widens the pre-existing achievement gap in these fields. These historically underrepresented groups include girls, ethnic minorities, low-income families, and students with disabilities. Access to STEM education and resources are limited for underrepresented groups. For example, children who don’t learn how to swim because they couldn’t afford swimming lessons tend to not go into the field of marine science, and children whose families do not have a computer or broadband internet access are less likely to explore coding and data science. They are entering STEM education at a much lower rate than those who can afford or have access to the necessary resources. Moreover, many students are inadequately prepared with STEM education and skills in high school, which limits future career opportunities and has created a workforce shortage in these fields.
Today, and for the last several years, STEM job opportunities have greatly outweighed the number of qualified applicants, which creates a greater need for STEM education in the classroom. Not only does STEM education prepare students with the skills required to fill in-demand jobs, but it gives students the opportunity to learn and acquire real-world skills, knowledge, and experiences in the classroom by making meaningful connections between global issues, the local community, and their school. With effective STEM teaching, students know exactly how they will use the curriculum in the “real world,” and the learning becomes more meaningful, engaging, and relevant to their lives. They will also gain 21st-century skills that will prepare them to be successful citizens in the future that know how to navigate the ever-changing global marketplace and technological world.
For over 30 years, JASON Learning’s mission has been “to inspire and educate students everywhere through real science and exploration.” Employees, board members, and partners of JASON strive to support this mission every day, through every product and program, and for every student that we reach. We understand that opportunities are limited and the challenges are greater for many students, especially those in demographics underrepresented in STEM academics and careers. The tremendous diversity that defines the JASON community has always informed our work and outreach. We at JASON believe that educational opportunity and equity for every student is fundamental and non-negotiable. To ensure that we continue to fulfill our mission with a strong focus on equity, we have engaged with passionate students, teachers, school administrators, community partners, and STEM role models from across the country as part of our Equity Advisory Council, which convenes regularly to provide JASON staff and leadership with ongoing guidance on how to achieve our equity goals with maximum impact and effectiveness.
JASON helps solve access issues and supports equity by granting access to innovative STEM resources for all students. We strive to level the STEM playing field for underrepresented students by implementing inclusive approaches to STEM instruction that highlight students’ and their communities’ STEM assets. For example, our “ARGO Math” curriculum unit enables students to engage with Algebra learning earlier, thereby diminishing its role as a “gatekeeper” course that can inhibit steady progress toward more advanced STEM classes and career pathways. The ARGO curriculum empowers students and helps them successfully tackle other STEM subjects that are heavily reliant upon a strong math foundation
Framing STEM teaching and learning within authentic, real-world examples featuring diverse, inspiring career role models is a hallmark of JASON’s long-standing approach to curriculum design, and research suggests this has been key to JASON’s ability to improve academic outcomes, especially for underrepresented student groups. In addition to improving learning outcomes for the topic at hand, the role model approach helps students build positive self-identities with respect to their math and problem-solving abilities because they relate to the role models as individuals and can envision themselves pursuing similar career paths.
JASON strongly supports equity and diverse representation in education and works to help students see themselves and their own bright possibilities in the faces of talented STEM role models, innovative curriculum, and teachers and mentors who inspire them.