MASON, Ohio - It was the first day of classes at Western Row Elementary in Mason on Wednesday. Everything went off without a hitch.
“It was great! They were so excited to come, they went to bed early last night and they woke up on time, which was a treat,” jokingly said Mary Beth Koenig, a Mason mother of three.
It was also the first day of science lab for students.
“We have science labs at the elementary level and the kids are actually in the lab with their hands on things, and trying experiments and finding out things that work and that don’t work,” said Karen Vome, a science lab educator at the school.
Even with classes like the one Vome teaches, children across the United States are falling behind in science and math.
According to recent rankings provided by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), children from 24 nations performed better than the U.S. in science.
The data from the NMSI also indicates that only 30 percent of U.S. high school grads are ready for college-level science. Only 45 percent are prepared in math.
It’s also been shown that girls across the country are falling behind.
Only 23 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers are women, according NMSI. That number is alarming considering women make up 48 percent of the workforce.
A recent U.S. News and World Report article indicated that about two-thirds of the top 25 jobs on its Top 100 Best Jobs, including nine of the top 10, are in STEM-related fields.
Researchers believe this can be blamed in part on the fact girls are not being pushed to pursue careers in math and science.
Some examples can be found on T-shirts designed for little girls that are sold at stores like Forever 21 and The Children's Place.
One reads: “Allergic to Algebra.”
Another example seems to contend that girls shouldn't apply themselves in the classroom.
“My best subjects are shopping, music and dancing," the shirt reads. In addition math not being on the list, there’s a line under the text that reads “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
There’s even a shirt that says, “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”
The lack of an emphasis on education can be found in national graduation rates over the past three decades. Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. led the world in high school and college graduation rates. Today, the U.S. has dropped to 20th and 16th.
A lack of emphasis on higher-education, particularly in STEM fields could negatively impact the U.S.'s position in the world economy.
By 2018, it is projected that 63 percent of all jobs in the U.S. economy will require post-secondary education.
By 2018, 92 percent of traditional STEM jobs will be for those with at least some post-secondary education and training.
Because of those figures and the recent downward trend in education in this country, the U.S. may be short as many as three million high-skills workers by 2018, according to the NMSI data.
9 On Your Side asked Vome about ways to get U.S. children, especially young girls interested in science and math, and education overall.
“I think it’s all about (getting to them) when they’re young,” the educator said. “I think it’s getting children interested -- girls, boys, whatever -- when they’re young, and letting them see all the opportunities and that science is life and if they get interested in it. Then it will just start blooming from there and just keep growing all the way up through high school.”
Vome also said having opportunities like in-class learning tutorials and lab sessions is one way to show kids the benefits of science. She said allowing children to touch, see and experience science in a lab shows kids how they can apply science and math in their everyday lives and in the professional world.
One of the keys to making this a reality is having quality educators reinforce it in the classroom.
“My son had a phenomenal seventh-grade science teacher last year and we’re up at this lake, and the whole time we’re just enjoying the lake, my son is talking about water quality and all the wonderful things he learned in science last year,” Koenig said.
If Koenig’s children are any indication, those numbers could be turning around.
“(Math and science) are my children's favorites and what they strive at, they do the best at, so they love it,” she said. “They look forward to it and I think they can use that math and science every day in their lives, so that’s why they enjoy it so much.”
You can find a link to the rankings from the National Math and Science Initiative at the following link: http://nms.org/Education/TheSTEMCrisis.aspx
You can find information about the top jobs in science at the following link: http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/the-100-best-jobs
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