How to Get Kids Interested in STEM Fields

How To Raise a Scientist

The first year after she helped to install AP classes and train teachers at the Eagle Academy for Young Men in New York City, some 25% of students at the Eagle Academy received a score of three or better. Also, compared to students in that year’s cohort who weren’t exposed to AP classes, Magloire’s AP students were more prepared for the rigors of college, and were accepted to higher ranking colleges, some receiving full scholarships, she says.

Expose Kids to Professional Careers
The involvement of corporate and professional organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers is another necessary element that further contributes to an increase of African Americans in STEM–not just financially, but through job shadowing and mentorship programs. Students who regularly interact with professionals often feel stronger connections between STEM lessons and their career pursuits, and may, in fact, perform better in school, suggests Coleman.

For example, last fall, IBM Corp. partnered with the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York and the New York City College of Technology to launch Pathways in Technology Early College High School. P-TECH’s graduates can receive both their high school diploma and a free associate degree in applied science in computer systems technology or electromechanical engineering technology, and are first in line for consideration for entry-level positions at IBM.

None of the students were hand-picked high achievers. Ninety-two percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and 85% of the student body is African American. Yet, the attendance rate was 94.2%, and 98% of students promoted from grade nine to 10. Seventy-three percent of students passed both the English Language Arts and the Integrated Algebra regents exams. “In year one, students get more time in English and math, which are huge building blocks for STEM majors,” says P-TECH principal Rashid Ferrod Davis, who formerly ran the Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy.
Davis says that the pipeline to STEM is a three-ringed approach that involves colleges, industry, and support organizations. Schools, he believes, should attach themselves to organizations and corporations that have a proven track record of steering students in the right direction.

To succeed in STEM-related fields, students need effective science and math instruction, inquiry-based teaching, academic advising, social support, and mentors, says Magloire. Not one of these elements alone will work on the population of K—12 African Americans students. But without such efforts African Americans are slated to take a permanent second-class station not only in the innovation economy, but in America.