Two of President Barack Obama's top education priorities converge as the White House coordinates public-private efforts to create more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities for young students.
A White House Early STEM Symposium on Thursday, April 21, brought together leaders from the public and private sectors who have committed to cultivating a love for learning about STEM among preschool through third-grade students.
"Supporting the lifelong love of STEM starts early, and that's why the White House issued a call for commitment to support STEM learning," said Libby Doggett, deputy assistant secretary for policy and early learning at the U.S. Education Department.
Leaders from public and private organizations sent more than 200 examples to the White House of their work on STEM across the country, and now they have made 40 commitments to continue their early learning efforts in this area. The Education Department and the Health and Human Services Department decided to create a policy that spells out the role technology can play in learning. The public has until May 13 to answer questions that will help the two departments as they work on the policy.
On the teacher preparation front, the Lawrence Hall of Science will work with a local community college to design an online course that will help educators teach math and science to young children. During the next school year, Project Lead the Way plans to include more than 400 elementary schools in its hands-on curriculum and teacher training efforts, bringing the number of its STEM-based programs to 1,700 elementary schools.
Children this age often explore new territory, ask tons of questions and build things, and it's important to provide them with hands-on opportunities that encourage them to continue enjoying learning, Doggett said. It's also a way to provide equal opportunities to students at the beginning of their time in the school system so they won't be left behind.
The Obama administration has made it a priority to help students become international leaders in math and science, and give them equal access to learning opportunities from the time they turn four. This symposium and these organizational commitments represent another step to advance in these areas.
"It's really up to us to set a strong foundation for our children, to expose them early to STEM learning," said Roberto Rodríguez, deputy assistant to the president for education.