“Lack of access to high quality education is the major factor limiting the participation of underrepresented minorities in higher education and in the STEM workforce” – U.S. Department of Education, “Condition of Education”, 2005
Time and time again, the “ages” of human history have been possible because of things that man has been able to do with materials. Ages of human history are named after materials e.g., The Stone Age and The Bronze Age. Continuous advancements in our understanding of materials have propelled us into our technological age where plastics have revolutionized our lives. Look around your home, your workplace and places of leisure and you will find plastic. These convenient, strong, energy-saving, safe and cheap products exist because of years of research and innovation in manufacturing by scientists, engineers and technologists to meet ever growing human demand. Globally, we use in excess of 260 million tons of plastic per year, accounting for about 8 percent of world oil production. [See here for details]
Plastics are made of long sequences of monomers linked together to form a polymer. The prefix “poly” means “many”; the root word “mer” means “part”. Monomers are small molecules. The prefix “mono” means one. The term “plastics” is used to describe polymers manufactured from non-renewable sources (oil, natural gas and coal). All plastics are polymers. Plastics are distinguished by their ability to be easily formed and molded in many ways for many purposes. [Learn more at IUPAC Polymer Education]
The gushing oil in the gulf, now supposedly under control, has focused attention on the need to reduce environmental pollution on the three life areas of our planet – land, air and water. For several decades now, scientists have been working to find alternative ways to manufacture plastics and significantly reduce reliance on fossil feedstock (e.g., oil) and environmental pollution.
What technologies will we have in the future? Of course we don’t know, but we do know that they will depend on the advanced materials that scientists are able to develop.
With this level of uncertainty about what the future holds, what then should we be doing to channel more students into Green/STEM careers (or should I say, prepare citizens with the 21st Century workforce skills they need to compete in a Global STEM economy)?
At Why Science, we believe that helping our youth transition from school to career starts with preparing more students to enter college, ready to pursue any STEM career they chose. Thus our task then is to ignite the passion for science in all teachers so as to inspire them to train our future leaders, discoverers and innovators in STEM.
We train teachers so they can provide hands-on and minds-on learning experiences that will help students develop a strong foundation for continuous improvement in 21st Century Skills throughout life. We know that when the hands-on, minds-on teaching and learning strategies advocated in the National Science Education Standards are faithfully implemented, students are better prepared to participate in STEM.
Our record to date shows that
- Over 60 % of high school and college students we have trained to teach our curriculum have gone on to pursue STEM related fields.
- K-12 teachers who have participated in our science & technology professional development workshops report a 83 % increase in mastery of scientific knowledge and a 143 % increase in teacher confidence of how to introduce scientific concepts into the classroom.
Our record for training teachers to increase talent pool in STEM is very promising and only a beginning, as we are always seeking new and innovative ways to increase participation of members of all segments of our society in STEM.