Springtime STEM Events Evoke New Beginnings

Besides the political messages, the April 22 March for Science promises to feature clever, thematically appropriate signs.

Besides the political messages, the April 22 March for Science promises to feature clever, thematically appropriate signs.

To everything, a season

This week, we offer a series of seasonally related items that can remind us about new beginnings as well as how thinking and acting in the name of STEM can underwrite change in the world around us. Earth Day, Take Our Kids to Work Day, and a new baseball season provide the backdrop for the bits to follow, all of which struck us especially pleasing or worthy of contemplation.

The March for Science

April 22 is Earth Day, and this year it will also feature the March for Science, billed as the “first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.” In addition to a rally in Washington, DC, organizers report events on tap in over 500 other cities around the world.

Befitting an event that began almost by accident amid semi-serious online chatter on Reddit (scroll way down), the goals of the march are diffuse. One observer tallied 21 different purposes of the march. Headline themes are concerns about partisanship in science policy, risks to federal R&D funding, diversity among science and engineering professionals, and public engagement with science-related topics.

As with any efforts to mobilize grassroots energies, the material impact of the March for Science will depend on advocates’ abilities to translate emotion-driven activity into political accomplishment. This researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, identifies the balance between centralized planning and distributed activity, clarity of purpose, and relationships with political leaders as areas where organizers might focus their efforts for maximum impact.

And for a view from deeper within the realm of philosophizing, this searching rumination on the role and influence of values in scientific endeavors will take you right back to sophomore year of college. No matter the position you take, it is worth remembering, as the march organizers note, there is no planet B.

How to make engineering understandable and appealing to kids can take many forms, but giving them good information does seem to change the way they think and feel about the field.

How to make engineering understandable and appealing to kids can take many forms, but giving them good information does seem to change the way they think and feel about the field.

Engineering for the younger set

Next Thursday, April 27, is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. In honor of this event, we highlight a few items related to kids and engineering.

First, in fact, is Highlights itself, the venerable print publication that this piece in ars technica shows to have stayed substantive, current, and engaging for all of its 70-plus years. A documentary called 44 Pages, in honor of the magazine’s regular page count, chronicles the magazine’s history, including the tidbit that an aeronautical engineer came up with the idea of seeding doctors’ and dentists’ offices with the magazine as a marketing tactic.

Data on understanding kids’ perceptions of engineering can be hard to come by. The UK’s Institution of Engineering and Technology has released Inspiring the Next Generation of Engineers, a meaty report on the topic, based on a 2015 survey of kids aged 9-12 and their parents. Full of revealing insights and analyses, the quotes from kids can really bring the issue into focus. Said one girl about a career in engineering, “I wouldn’t really look forward to getting my hands all dirty, and just touching metal that can hurt your fingers.”

Even so, Seth Shostak, a noted astronomer and hunter of extraterrestrial life signs, found he could reason himself persuasively through to writing a piece called, A Case for Optimism. His basic point? Millennials and their younger counterparts seem to embrace science and reason in greater proportions than the benighted generations ahead of them.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have long worked to showcase connections to STEM learning in the game of baseball with events at the park involving local teachers, students, and parents.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have long worked to showcase connections to STEM learning in the game of baseball with events at the park involving local teachers, students, and parents.

Play ball!

Finally, we count baseball this season as another sport that is embracing STEM education among teams’ community outreach priorities. Leaders of the effort include the Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Washington Nationals. And building on their partnership with the San Francisco 49ers, Chevron has developed a rich baseball and STEM program, too, in their STEMZone portfolio. The online content is top-notch and community outreach events combine fun and learning for appreciative audiences of kids.

Seasons of change

If anyone has plans to participate in March for Science activities, we’d love to hear how things go, either in Washington or anywhere else. What do you think the best reason to go (or not go) might be?

Please share any comments on this or any other issue to do with springtime STEM activities. We invite you to share with any interested friends or colleagues.


Eric Iversen is VP for Learning and Communications at Start Engineering. He has written and spoken widely on engineering education in the K-12 arena. You can write to him about this topic, especially when he gets stuff wrong, at eiversen@start-engineering.com

You can also follow along on Twitter @StartEnginNow.

New this spring! The updated version of our Start Engineering Career Guide is an all-in-one resource for getting middle and high school kids excited about engineering.

And remember, our books cover the entire PreK-12 range. Get the one that’s right for you at our online shop.