Building science literacy and future STEM professionals

To help create a future workforce excited about STEM careers and armed with important STEM skills, Michigan State University Extension has made science education a key focus of 4-H Youth Development programming.

4-H youth.

The U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy indicates that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) occupations are growing at nearly two times the rate of non-STEM jobs. In addition, a growing number of fields are seeking employees with STEM-related skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and technical abilities. Despite this increasing demand for STEM-educated professionals, 64 percent of 2015 Michigan eighth graders were below proficient in science achievement, and the U.S. Department of Education reports that only 16 percent of high school seniors are interested in pursuing STEM careers.

To help create a future workforce excited about STEM careers and armed with important STEM skills, Michigan State University Extension has made science education a key focus of 4-H Youth Development programming. During the 2016-17 program year, Michigan 4-H youth explored science, engineering and technology through 243,000 4-H experiences in fields ranging from animal science to robotics. After participating in 4-H science programming, participants showed positive attitudes and aspirations toward science and an ability to demonstrate cutting-edge STEM skills. Of youth surveyed:

  • 90% said they like experimenting and testing ideas, and 89% reported they were excited about new discoveries. 
  • 88% indicated they liked science and wanted to learn more about science while 71% said they would like to have a job related to science.

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