ROCKLIN – Middle school students are at the age when they question why they should learn abstract concepts, such as math, for which they see no immediate purpose. To attract students to mathematics, and other science and technology subjects, they need real applications. Engaging middle school students in hands-on projects involving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) will plant the seed that can grow into rewarding, high paying, in-demand careers.
In Roseville on Wednesday, October 15, 32 7th and 8th grade students at the Sundown Educational Center located at 1020 Sundown Way #170 will measure, bend, drill and cut metal parts on industrial equipment and assemble catapults. The experience is expected to make math and science more relevant because they will be able to apply what they are learning in class to create a working catapult. Learning basic manufacturing skills may impact their career choice.
The project is being brought to the students by the Sierra College Workforce Development & Continuing Education Division (www.sierracollegetraining.com). Through a grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s office, Sierra College is strengthening career technical education (CTE) by promoting science, technology, engineering and math education and increasing connections between community college programs and secondary schools.
Attracting young people to technical careers is critical to filling expected demand for future California workers. According to EdSource, “to get high-paying jobs in some of California’s fastest-growing occupations, a strong background in math and science is a must.” (Math & Science Gateways to California’s Fastest Growing Careers)
Similarly, in Top Jobs of 2008, Fastcompany.com reported, “In short, computer and mathematical experts continue to be a sought-after demographic.” (http://www.fastcompany.com/articles/2008/01/topjob.html) Web sites such as The Future Channel are encouraging young people to explore science and technology careers with movies that show how STEM applies to exciting careers: http://www.thefutureschannel.com/movies/science_tech_movies.php.
Sierra College Workforce Development & Continuing Education Division developed this Tech-Explorer project curriculum to meet California State Standards and provide relevant learning experiences most likely to stimulate middle students’ interest in STEM. According to the National Middle School Association (www.nmsa.org), “young adolescents learn best through engagement and interaction” with curriculum “that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory.” This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents (2003).
According to Sandra Scott, Director of Workforce Development and Continuing Education at Sierra College, “Our vision is to engage all students in applied learning and interest them in pursuing the classes now, in high school and later at Sierra College that can lead them to rewarding technical careers.” She explained that if middle school students can grasp abstract concepts by applying them to a project that is relevant to them, they may be more motivated to take math, science, computer, design, robotics and other technical courses. “Developing their interest now, in middle school, can give them an edge in determining their future,” said Scott.
The mission of the Workforce Development & Continuing Education Division is to deliver flexible learning opportunities that produce change. For more information, go to www.sierracollegetraining.com or contact Sandra Scott, Sierra College Workforce Development and Continuing Education at (916) 781-6244.