Now, more than ever, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education is a necessity in classrooms all over. Of course, effective STEM education relies on the latest equipment in technology, and for one Tennessee middle school, the future is looking rather bright.
Heather Burkhart, a fifth-grade science teacher at Pigeon Forge Middle School, won the grand prize from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities' (ORAU) 2012 Extreme Classroom Makeover.
“We realize at ORAU that in order for students to spark and then maintain an interest in subjects such as math and science, the learning has to be engaging and innovative,” said ORAU president Andy Page. “By bringing technology into the classroom and arming teachers like Mrs. Burkhart with the tools they need, the Extreme Classroom Makeover helps demonstrate the importance and countless number of possibilities technology can bring to both teachers and students.”
The prize was a $30,000 grant to help outfit Burkhart’s classroom with the latest technology, including iPads and MacBook Air laptops.
"When I was in school there wasn't much technology. You had a computer and maybe a projector. And when you look around at these kids, their whole lives revolve around technology so it's only natural that education is also moving in that direction as well," said Burkhart. “Thanks to ORAU, and with the extensive research I completed over the summer, I will be able to open a whole new world of math and science to my students, which will help them to become more enthusiastic about learning.”
Science, technology, engineering and math education have several economic benefits for society, as students in these programs go into the workforce as skilled workers and researchers who can make constructive contributions in their field of employment.
The state of STEM education has been a leading topic of conversation in recent years in the public and private sectors. More than 100 CEOs, including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer (News - Alert), came together in 2010 to launch Change the Equation, an historic effort to scale up effective models for improving STEM education.
“Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success,” President Obama said in his State of the Union address in January 2011. “But if we want to win the future – if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas – then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.”
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Edited by Braden Becker