Four letters---STEM---standing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, are driving a lot of the conversation around our schools.
Schools in districts across the state are working to give students the opportunity and challenge of STEM curricula and prepare them to fill the nation’s highest concentration of STEM jobs right here in Washington.
But in our rush to feed Washington’s need for STEM grads who can excel in computer science, engineering and bio-tech and do their work in high-tech indoor spaces, we can’t forget that STEM learning can (and must) happen outdoors, too.
The Seattle Times editorial board recently wrote, "More companies and organizations need workers with technical skills ... not just the Microsofts and Amazons of the world."
Our natural resource industries such as forestry, farming, and fisheries also need STEM-skilled workers, talented individuals who are driven to keep finding better ways to meet long-terms goals of productive sustainability.
But we know that the skills a future forester needs won’t come strictly from work done in a classroom---the next generation of trailblazers will be inspired by learning done in the outdoors.
That is why the Pacific Education Institute
has developed and supported FieldSTEM curricula
in which teachers and students use the outdoors as their classroom to observe, gather knowledge and generate new insights about how distinct ecosystems interact with each other.
Students who participate in FieldSTEM are given real-world experience that translates well to the general workforce, but the programs also offer special advantages to rural areas where jobs in natural resource industries are often at the center of the economies of small cities and towns.
Washingtonians all care about maintaining a clean environment. So, it’s crucial that we provide opportunities like FieldSTEM to give some of our brightest young minds the knowledge and skills to care for it.
Taking STEM outdoors is something we have to do to prepare students for future natural resource jobs, revive struggling rural communities, and maintain our leadership in the area of smart, science-based management of natural resources.