Everyday conversations: Why teach STEM? [audio]

A student builds a 3-D printer. (State Dept./ D.A. Peterson)

Six students from around the world meet. What do they have in common? They are all exchange students studying at a U.S. university for a semester. Throughout the semester, they learn more English, learn about U.S. culture, and learn more about their fields of study. This series of Everyday Conversations is about these six students and their experiences during a semester at a university in the U.S. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, students (Lee, Peter, and Jana) discuss STEM education.

Peter: I still want to teach younger students, but I’ve decided that I also want to teach STEM-related subjects.

Lee: STEM, as in science, technology, engineering and math?

Peter: Exactly. Scientific and technological innovations are really important these days. And students need to be exposed to STEM subject matter as early as possible. And in a fun way!

Jana: As an engineering major, I couldn’t agree more. It’s important to teach students what they can do with their knowledge. I get to think up complex ideas, but I also get to design them and sometimes build them.

Lee: I totally agree. I can’t wait for others to solve global environmental issues. In my environmental science classes, we learn how to gather and evaluate evidence, be innovative and develop solutions to global issues.

Peter: Those are the skills I want to teach my students one day! I think STEM education is linked to a country’s future prosperity.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

STEM is an acronym for “science, technology, engineering and math.”

An innovation is a new idea, new thing or new way of doing something.

Scientific innovations are new ideas, new things or new ways of doing something related to the fields of science, such as biology, chemistry or physics. Technological innovations are new ideas, new things or new ways of doing something related to technology.

In this context, subject matter means the information or topic taught in school.

The phrase “couldn’t agree more” is used to emphasize that one completely agrees with something a person says.

To think up something is to invent or imagine something.

Complex means made of a lot of different parts, difficult to understand, not simple.

To gather evidence means to find and collect different reasons something may or may not be true. After gathering evidence, one can evaluate it. This means to form an opinion about the value or quality of it.

Innovative means having new ideas or ways of doing things.

Prosperity is the state of being successful, especially in making money.

Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.