From tapping our fingers on cell phones and computers to measuring the ingredients for tonight’s dinner, we are using science and technology daily. In the future, it will be even more important to our tech-savvy children.
“The internet (and technological advances) will not only affect our home life, but also will be integrated into a lot of different careers,” says Kirsten Ellenbogen, president and CEO at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are everywhere. STEM skills will be in so many different fields in the future.”
With so many career options out there, kids and parents may be looking to spark an interest in the field beyond the regular school year. Camps around Northeast Ohio are offering those unique learning opportunities.
Kids, due to the ever-growing tech use, seem to be more interested in these STEM career categories.
A 2011 study by Harris Interactive on behalf of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide/Microsoft shows the inspiration for choosing STEM careers varies.
According to the study, “male college students are more likely to pursue STEM because they have always enjoyed games/toys, reading books, and/or participating in clubs that are focused on their chosen subject area, and female students are more likely to say that they chose STEM to make a difference.”
More than 67 percent of the college students said, “STEM as a career choice has job potential, good salary and find their degree program subject intellectually stimulating and challenging.”
Many — both male and female students — were influenced to pursue the degree by teacher, but the study also showed influence came from games, toys, clubs, science-related activities, museums, or a parent or relative in the field.
Parents such as Paula Janmey — a former engineer and current educator and on site owner of The Goddard School in North Ridgeville — and her husband Bob, an engineer, may be that influence for their children.
Their daughters Claire, 10, and Erica, 9, also like science and attend camps — such as Rocketry Camp — at Lake Ridge Academy in North Ridgeville.
“We like to get outside to ‘do’ science and at Lake Ridge camps, we spend a lot of time outside in the woods or in the fields,” Claire and Erica said. “The more time we spend doing experiments and activities in camp that are about science, the more we want to know.”
Paula Janmey says she wants to help them find the joy of learning — and when you see that spark, you can encourage that to grow.
“As long as the kids are having fun doing it,” she says. “(One of their) favorite classes during school (at Lake Ridge Academy) is science. It’s very hands-on with summer camps. It helps them (Claire and Erica) make a connection from theoretical to practical.”
Connecting to Careers
Camp programs around Northeast Ohio in a variety of subjects are connecting academics to future career possibilities.
The science field is no different with many focusing on STEM.
“It’s hard as a parent to introduce your children to all those careers,” Ellenbogen says. “We provide kids exposure to careers parents might have never imagined. We allow kids to explore science that they might not get on a regular basis.”
This hands-on learning approach to science doesn’t only develop academic skills, but also problem-identification and solving skills, which are key components in these fields.
“These skills are something we spend a lot of time talking about for workforce development,” Ellenbogen says.
There is a need for people who can identify and describe the problem while in the process, she notes. The science center keeps a close eye on the state’s academic standards, the next generation of science standards and where we are heading in future workforce needs, and integrates that into its camps.
Girls and Science
Science, computer programing and other technological fields aren’t just for boys. Bringing girls into science has been a topic of discussion in the STEM-related fields.
“Data on girls in STEM careers, computer science shows a painful gap,” Ellenbogen says. “It’s concerning. There is not equal representation in STEM fields. It raises questions about what’s missing — how would things be different?”
Interest in sixth grade and seventh grade is critical to sustain interest in a career field, she says.
A good example is former Great Lakes Science camper Hannah Lyness, 21, of Shaker Heights.
In seventh grade, she attended a Lego robot workshop at the center and became interested through that experience. She was shown the camp brochure and decided to attend the weeklong camp. She also eventually became a counselor at the camp.
“I was always interested in building things,” she says. “I remember coming home from camp and still thinking about the problems. It became an obsession on how I can make the robot better.”
She says she learned about working on the teams, and that science and engineering can be fun and competitive.
“I didn’t know about these opportunities; this was the first exposure,” she says. She now is majoring in mechanical engineering and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.
For Claire and Erica, science-related fields are sparking an interest. Erica is considering maybe being a scientist or chemist, while Claire is interested in different options, including a strong inclination toward veterinary medicine.
Both say they aren’t thinking too seriously yet — after all, there are so many subjects and camps to explore.