What is STEM Education?

Simply put, STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. Because these subject areas have a strong correlation to each other, STEM curriculums use an interdisciplinary approach and real-world examples for instruction. Students are immersed in hands-on learning—think suspension bridges made out of straws and finding out the properties of water using a penny—and encouraged to solve problems using all four subject areas.

But, STEM is more than just memorizing the periodic table or mastering calculus. Critical thinking, collaboration and creativity are essential components. One goal of STEM education is to teach students that science, technology, engineering and math are necessary in all aspects of our lives, from daily errands to the global economy. Another goal of STEM education is to negate the idea that these disciplines are only accessible to some. They aren’t just for scientists, technology experts, engineers and mathematicians. Every field—from social work to Hollywood—uses STEM in some capacity.

STEM education has been around for years but it’s received more attention recently from both the private and public sectors. The White House also recognizes that STEM education is crucial to keeping the U.S. competitive and innovative. In late 2009, President Barack Obama launched the Educate to Innovate program to “move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade.”
The heightened focus on STEM has led to parents, educators, business leaders and students searching for valuable resources. Consider this your starting point.

History of STEM



Science, technology, engineering and math aren’t exactly new concepts. After all, the ancient Egyptians demonstrated unbelievable engineering feats with the pyramids, fire was considered an early form of technology and math and science have been the backbone of every civilization.

Even though the term “STEM” didn’t exist during his time, Ben Franklin promoted the idea that students should be taught how science, technology, engineering and math apply in the real world.

It was the Space Race in the 1950s that may have helped propel STEM into the mainstream. After Russia launched Sputnik, the U.S. answered with the creation of NASA. Funding for STEM curriculums also amped up.

The acknowledgement that these disciplines were intertwined wasn’t novel, but the term “STEM” had yet to be used. “SMET” was the accepted terminology until the early 2000s.

While serving as director of the National Science Foundation’s Education and Human Resources division between 2001 and 2004, Dr. Judith Ramaley coined the term “STEM.” She later told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that changing the order of letters created a “more meaningful connection” among the four areas.

And, the name stuck. Everyone from small-town teachers to the President of the United States started referring to this integrated approach as STEM. But more work had to be done.

stem-studentsIn 2012, the American Workforce Youth Policy Forum stated the U.S. ranked 27th among developed nations in proportion to college students receiving science or engineering degrees. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum ranked the U.S. as 48th in quality of math and science education.

Not exactly impressive numbers.

These days, there is a general consensus a major focus should be placed on STEM education, starting as young as elementary school. Just like many of his predecessors, President Barack Obama made STEM education a focus of his presidency. As of 2015, Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign has resulted in more than $1 billion in financial and in-kind support of STEM programs.

Why is STEM Education Important?

Without STEM, the world wouldn’t have the iPhone, solar power or antibiotics. STEM helps the world move forward which is why it’s important that America’s next generation has the education they need to thrive in a STEM-obsessed world.

Worker Shortage: By 2018, the U.S. may be short as many as 3 million high-skilled workers, according to the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). Without robust STEM curriculums and knowledgeable teachers, there could be a shortage in fields that contribute to the global economy and drive innovation.

The U.S. Department of Education states that only 16 percent of high school seniors in the U.S. are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career. But there’s proof that colleges need to do more as well. For those who pursue a STEM college major, only about half go on to work in a related career.

Opportunity: STEM careers boast higher salaries than most. According to the Department of Labor, the average wage for all STEM occupations is $85,570, which is almost double the average for all occupations. In addition to this, job opportunity is expected to be strong through 2022. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project employment in STEM fields to grow to more than 9 million.

Busting Myths: STEM has long been associated as a male-dominated area, but the gender gap may be closing. STEM programs directed at girls and women are proof that education can play an important role in changing the landscape. The same goes for other underrepresented groups, such as Hispanics and blacks. Dropout rates are higher among these groups, according to NMSI, but robust STEM curriculums can help keep students interested in getting an education.

STEM Voices on Social Media

Teaching STEM

Nearly 45,000 people follower this Twitter account which publishes “Teaching STEM – Education News.” Stay connected and up to date with the latest trends coming out of STEM education.

STEM Education Coalition

This alliance of businesses, educators and professional organizations use Twitter to voice its opinion about various issues facing STEM education. The organization hopes to improve STEM education across all levels.


The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association is no different. ITEEA tweets to its more than 2,600 followers about sessions they offer, conferences and worthwhile articles.


Created by a Chicago mother, the STEMChat Moderator hosts monthly discussions for parents, educators and STEM professionals. Followers can expect to see information about STEM competitions and #STEMGirlFriday.

STEM Education Alliance

Look for a wide array of information that helps inspires students to explore STEM careers. The organization looks to strengthen teacher awareness of STEM activities and create mentor opportunities.

Women in STEM

Joining the ranks of other women in STEM Twitter personalities, Women in STEM is a strong resource for STEM history, facts, scholarship information and more.

Black Women in STEM

This Twitter account “amplifies the voices of black women.” Look for retweets from other STEM field players. Serves as an online community for black women, with information from various sources.

Institute of Physics

Physics fanatics can benefit from following the offical Twitter account of the Institute of Physics. Followers can expect plenty of action from the IOP; they tweet about news, research, event details and scholarship info.

Girls in Tech

Interested in inspiring girls to participate in STEM? The global non-profit disseminates regular information to help move closer to their mission of engaging, education and empowering women in technology.


Their moniker may be cute, but these girls and women are serious about STEM. STEMettes spotlight girls in STEM throughout the world. Followers are treated to information about hackathons, panels, school trips and more.


Described as the “one-stop shop for STEM info,” follow STEMConnector for facts, reports and other pertinent information to the STEM world. With 29,000+ followers, STEMConnector has become a go-to STEM source.

Change the Equation

Tweets from this non-partisan group in Washington D.C. are a combination of updates about the White House’s support of STEM, how companies inspire students and links to blogs and news.

IGNITE Worldwide

IGNITE’s uses its social media presence to raise awareness about girls in STEM. Tweets often revolve around related news stories, fundraising efforts and events.


From tips to inspire learning to helping minority students succeed in STEM, many tweets are geared toward educators. Followers will also find information about different STEM careers.

Women Who Code

With 50,000 members across 60 cities, Twitter may be the way to stay connected to the non-profit Women Who Code. Look for tweets about influential women, hackathons and women in tech events.

Matt Arnold

STEM educator and Associate Director of Instruction for Project Lead the Way, Matt Arnold tweets about innovative projects and STEM news. You’ll also find inspirational photos of students working on STEM activities.


Having trouble organizing your STEM activities? Someone’s done the work for you with a Pinterest page devoted to activities and ideas in science, technology, engineering and math.

Teaching STEM

This forum is designed specifically for STEM educators. Users are invited to share ideas, have discussions and disseminate information about STEM in the classroom. A perfect place to land if you’re looking to promote STEM.


MATHCOUNTS hosts a competition series, runs the National Math Club and supports learning through the Math Video Challenge. Follow for information on application deadlines, news and even math humor.

Project Lead the Way

Project Lead the Way provides professional development and STEM programs to schools across the country. You’ll hear about students who excel at STEM projects, get updates about summits and links to informative articles.

Elementary School: STEM Games, Professional Development, Lessons and More

NASA Kids Club

NASA demystifies space travel with their kids’ club. Head to Mars or solve puzzles in the International Space Station Activity Book. Kids can choose activities based on skill level as well.

NASA SpacePlace

Why does Saturn have rings? This is one question posed by NASA’s SpacePlace, a portal for students and educators. Click around for games, crafts, activities and media.

National Education Association

The National Education Association lists their top 10 best STEM curriculum and professional development resources. It covers lesson plans, games and workshops.


Educators are just a few clicks away from STEM project ideas using the science lessons and tools search bar courtesy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Filter by grade, theme and content.

The Engineering Place

Look for STEM inspiration on this page. Here you’ll find activities related to earth science, the human body and weather. Each lesson includes simple tools, ingredients and instructions.

Middle School: Handbooks, Contests and Interviews

IEEE Spectrum

Straight talk from an 8th-grader who tries to determine if a STEM career is right for her. She ponders whether working in STEM will allow her to explore her full range of interests. A good read.

Illinois Valley Community College

Soda geysers, geometry and team building. Middle school educators looking for new STEM teaching ideas will find plenty in this handbook. The post-activity assessments include questions that focus on girls in STEM.

Teaching Channel

The Teaching Channel hosts videos specifically aimed at applying STEM in middle school. The content includes interviews with teachers, activity ideas and showcases students working on projects in class.

Engineer Girl

Modern, vibrant and informative, was launched 15 years ago and includes interviews with engineers, hot topics, essay contests and more.

High School: Lesson Plans for Teachers, Challenges, Tools and Mentorships for Students

National Education Association

The NEA lists their top 10 best STEM curriculum and professional development resources. Many are geared toward high school students, such as the National STEM Video Game Challenge and Engineer Your Life.

Education Planner

College and career planning made easy with tools designed for high school students. Topics range from paying for and preparing for school. You’ll find solid information to prepare you for the path of your choice.

United States Navy

Expand your curriculum using the Navy’s STEM lesson plans. Topics such as robotics and future technology, sonar and echolation and GPS and navigation are sure to entice students in grades 9 through 12.

National STEM Video Game Challenge

Find everything you need to know about the annual National STEM Video Game Challenge, including rules and an FAQ. The site also includes resources, game design documents and information for mentors.

American Society for Engineering Education

If you’ve considered studying engineering after high school, start here. Current college students tell you what led them in that direction. The site also provides preparation tips.


MentorNet has matched more than 32,000 STEM mentors and students since 1997. Using a 7-step process, students—or proteges—communicate with their mentor about 15 minutes a week.

All Ages: STEM Educational Projects, Outreach and Programs

The Concord Consortium

This collection of STEM activities can be filtered by subject area or grade level. Options abound for students and teachers from building a bungee jump to determining boiling points to understanding the agricultural system.


Backed by the National Science Foundation and developed by graduate STEM fellows, this page is filled with resources for students and teachers from K-12. The collection includes projects from colleges around the country.

Institute of Physics

The Institute of Physics’ 3-part activity pack includes experiments and projects perfect for after school clubs. Download PDF files and delve into a wide array of activities, like building your own eggpod.

Lockheed Martin

Understanding that today’s STEM students are tomorrow’s leaders, global companies like Lockheed Martin are jumping in to help with funding for programs and outreach activities.

Global Digital Citizen Foundation

This compilation of STEM activities for students isn’t like the rest. Projects are can be customized by grade level and give educators the ability to create activities that will fit their students’ needs.

United States Naval Academy

The U.S. Naval Academy hosts activities that have shown to increase student interest in STEM and build confidence. Read more about summer STEM camps, girls-only summer camps and workshops.

Air Force STEM

The U.S. Air Force offers activities and events for students in grades K-12 at 25 STEM outreach locations. Examples include science fair support, rocketry and robotics projects and free science demonstrations.

Army Educational Outreach Program

The Army Educational Outreach Program site is a great starting point for educators and students. Browse activities, apprenticeship programs, competitions and scholarships.

Project Lead the Way

Project Lead the Way knows what busy parents need: Simple learning solutions. Check out 20 summer STEM ideas which boast easy instructions, creativity and enough variety to keep kids entertained and inspired.

College: Scholarships, Tips and Research

Exxon Mobil

Highlighting the engineering field and asking users to imagine a world without engineers, ExxonMobil’s “Be An Engineer” site provides career spotlights, biographies and inspirational videos.

University of Phoenix

Understanding the need for more STEM-educated workers, the University of Phoenix has collaborated with big names in the STEM field. Degree seekers can learn more by reading the college’s findings.

National Society of High School Scholars Foundation

Studying STEM in college? Look to the National Society of High School Scholars Foundation for scholarship opportunities. The site provides detailed information about eligibility and application information.

Scholarship America

While it’s not a comprehensive list of all STEM scholarships available to students, this publication by Scholarship America is a solid compilation of funding opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.

Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association

Each academic year the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association awards scholarships to undergraduate and graduate STEM majors. Applicants must already be in college or graduate school.


Microsoft gives back by awarding scholarships to STEM students. In an effort to promote diversity in the field, scholarships are often given to underrepresented minority and female students.

Northeastern University

From field trips to summer programs, the Center for STEM Education at Northeastern University demonstrates how college students can inspire a younger generation of STEM enthusiasts.

American Society for Engineering Education

Applying to engineering school can be daunting, but don’t let that deter you. With these 10 essential tips to getting into college, you’ll feel confident and ready to tackle your applications.

Department of Defense

How does a full scholarship, annual stipend and a job after graduation sound? If you’re awarded the SMART scholarship from the Department of Defense, you’ll get that plus summer research internships.

Gates Millenium Scholars

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program was created to help minority students reach their potential in STEM. It offers leadership development programs and money for graduate school STEM education.

NSF Innovation Challenge

The Innovation Challenge invites teams of students enrolled in associate’s degree programs, along with a faculty member, to submit their STEM-based solutions for real-world problems.

Just for Educators: Teaching Tools, Summer Camps and Grant Programs

National Science Foundation

Access educational research, instructional materials and projects to expand and strengthen your school’s STEM programs and widen student interest. Resources are available for grades K through 12.


100kin10’s mission is to train and retain 100,000 quality STEM teachers by 2021. The organization has more than 230 partners and each one commits to using their knowledge to help recruit, develop and support educators.

U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education’s compilation of grant programs include program descriptions and project types. Funding is usually given for implementation or to improve teacher/student performance.


There’s something for everyone—teachers, women, students and partners—at Get the latest news on STEM program certifications, summer camps, funding opportunities and more.

National Science Teachers Association

From building sunglasses to investigating thermal imaging, science teachers find a wealth of STEM teaching tools through the National Science Teachers Association website.

American Mathematical Society

The American Mathematical Society offers data, professional services, tools and awards for college-level math and STEM faculty. Access publications, apply for grants and learn best practices through this robust site.


Tune into this PBS collection of nearly 4,000 digital media STEM resources for pre-K-12 teachers. From Curious George to NOVA, PBS is actively supporting teachers and educators.

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code aims to close the gender gap in the STEM professions. Through its school-based clubs and 7-week summer immersion camp, thousands of girls are getting top-notch computer science education.


Astronauts on the International Space Station demonstrate STEM concepts such as surface tension and Newton’s Laws of Motions. Get videos and other resources to enhance your classroom.

Technical Education Research Center

Scientists and investigators at the Center for STEM Teaching and Learning develop high-quality educational resources for teachers. Current projects focus on climate literacy, algebra and science learning games.

U.S. Naval Academy

Get students on board with STEM with a little help from the U.S. Naval Academy. Through its SeaPerch program, teachers and students get to build remotely operative underwater vehicles.

Manufacture Your Future

What if your students could design a robot in class? Or a shoe? Download lesson plans, videos and more STEM resources from the advanced manufacturing sector.


Teachers will find a trove of STEM-related resources on this page, from news on national initiatives to scholarship programs and lesson plans.

Bayer Corporation

This 106-page guide gathers the best K-12 practices for STEM education programs in the U.S. Discover resources that range from family math activities to international science camps.


Teachers are turning their classrooms into hubs of scientific inquiry with help from the educators at nCASE, the National Center for the Advancement of STEM Education.

Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM

How do schools transform themselves into STEM hubs? Many turn to the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM, which brings world-class curriculum and training expertise to school districts around the country.

STEM Job Information, Career Highlights and Professional Organizations


Get inspired with Mashable’s roundup of 10 cool STEM jobs. Meet a NASA scientist, an ESPN statistician, a 3D printing whiz, and more people in cutting-edge professions.

Society of Women Engineers

The Society of Women Engineers gives its members a strong voice within the industry. From scholarships and professional awards, to K-12 outreach programs, this page offers a hub of rich resources.

American Society of Civil Engineers

The American Society of Civil Engineers links more than 150,000 professional members around the world. Find local communities, conferences, career advancement tips and more on this comprehensive site.


IEEE members around the world collaborate on life-changing technologies, from sustainable energy to robotics. The association frequently hosts STEM competitions, workshops and conferences.

Rice University

This Rice University site game-ifies the search for cool science careers, matching students’ interests to STEM fields. The site showcases real scientists and answers questions about salary, working conditions and more.

U.S. News & World Report

What are the best 25 STEM jobs? U.S. News & World Report created this diverse list of jobs, which boast low unemployment rates and increasing demand.

PBS Nova

Welcome to “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers,” a web series from PBS’s NOVA. Meet gifted, inspiring professionals who are accomplishing amazing things both on the job and after hours!

American Society for Engineering Education

Aiming for a STEM career in architecture? How about bicycle design? Check out this collection of videos showcasing Autodesk technology in action and hear from professionals in the design field.

O*NET OnLine

What can you do with a STEM education? This nuts-and-bolts guide lists every imaginable profession, from agriculture to aerospace. See which careers have especially bright outlooks.

STEM Career

Students, educators and guidance counselors will find a robust roundup of STEM resources on STEM Topics range from NASA’s future to careers in clean energy.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wondering where to start with STEM? Get the full picture—including occupations, earnings, and projected hiring trends—from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Army

Learn about U.S. Army STEM careers and jobs that will put your skills to the test. From microbiology to watercraft engineering, the possibilities are vast.

Women in STEM

The White House

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy aims to boost the number of women and girls in STEM. Find fact sheets, video, reports and more resources on this robust page.

National Girls Collaborative Project

The National Girls Collaborative Project captures the data about girls and women in STEM on a single page. From high school girls enrolling in biology classes, to female civil engineers, get all stats in one place.

Harvard University

What challenges do white women, and women and men of color, face in science? Women in STEM Resources collects research articles, blogs and other resources to paint a more complete picture.

National Center for Women & Information Technology

Aspirations in Computing is the brainchild of the National Center for Women & Information Technology. The goal? From kindergarten through the professional level, encourage girls and women to persist in computing.

Girls RISEnet

Museums and science centers have joined forces to raise awareness and broaden access for girls in STEM. Girls RISEnet cultivates diversity as it prepares the next generation of female scientists and engineers.

Anita Borg Institute

The Anita Borg Institute is accelerating the pace of global innovation by empowering women to excel in STEM fields. From scholarship programs to career guidance, this site is rich with resources for women in tech.

SAE International

How can STEM students engineer a better future for themselves? Consider the Society of Automotive Engineers, which awards scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate engineering students.

Society of Women Engineers

The Society of Women Engineers funded more than $660,000 worth of STEM scholarships for undergraduate and graduate scholars in 2015. Find out about eligibility requirements, the application process and more.


This PBS show tells the stories of bright, curious tweener girls putting STEM to work in their everyday lives. This resource page captures the best ideas for encouraging girls to pursue science-based inquiry.

Nerd Girls

Welcome to a new kind of girls’ club. Nerd Girls solves real-world tech problems and encourages girls to rock their world through participation in STEM. They hold that brains are beautiful, smart is sexy and geek is chic.

Association for Women in Science

The Association for Women in Science champions women in all STEM disciplines and employment sectors. More than 20,000 professionals participate in this membership organization, founded in 1971.

Huffington Post

The Huffington Post introduces 12 women pioneers in the STEM field from around the world. The list includes Nobel prize-winners, a Chinese astronaut and the first female chief technology officer of the U.S.


This site fills in the missing pages of the history books with a celebration of women in STEM. Little-known fact: Women programmed the worlds’ first electronic computer.

News and Video

The White House

The White House points to the power of storytelling to help address the shortage of STEM professionals. When entertainment media portrays STEM professionals in a positive light, enrollment in STEM majors jumps.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

This Chronicle of Higher Education piece examines the efforts to address the persistent gender gap in STEM majors. From revamped first-year courses to earlier access to research projects, the efforts remain disjointed.

U.S. News & World Report

Which top-ranked U.S. universities grant the most STEM degrees? Check out the rankings from U.S. News & World Report, which published this list in 2013. Topping its list are schools in California and Colorado.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT’s Teaching & Learning Laboratory explores pivotal scientific concepts through more than 40 STEM “Concept Videos.” These videos investigate topics that typically appear in college engineering courses.


How can we get more girls into STEM? This Edutopia blog offers five clear suggestions, from increasing girls’ STEM exposure, to creating mentoring relationships. It also lists professional associations aimed at women.

United States Census Bureau

Where do STEM majors work? In this nifty graphic, the U.S. Census Bureau charts the presence of men, women, and people of various races working in STEM occupations—from engineers to business people.

United States Census Bureau

Need some hard stats on women and minorities in STEM occupations? The U.S. Census Bureau crunches the numbers on employment trends, parsing the historical data by sex, race and Hispanic origin.


The “STEM Everywhere” video series ventures beyond the classroom to explore STEM in a skateboard park, a Nebraska farm, a 3D printing studio and beyond. See how students are exploring STEM in everyday life.

Department of Defense

Military children are gaining greater access to STEM education with the expansion of the National Math and Science Initiative’s College Readiness Program. This science site covers space, cybersecurity, robots and lasers.

U.S. News & World Report

What is STEM’s secret weapon? Look no farther than community college, where more than half the people who go into STEM fields start their journey. U.S. News & World Report highlights STEM success for 2-year colleges.

Hanover Research

What stops students from entering STEM fields? Check out this report from Hanover Research, which offers strategies for community colleges to attract and encourage more STEM students.

Time Warner Cable

How does STEM play out in sports? What about cooking? Hear directly from pro players and celebrity chefs who inspire young people to make the connection and find after-school STEM activities.

A Parents’ Guide to STEM

U.S. News & World Report

Parents, you don’t have to have all the answers in order to engage your kids in STEM topics. This site offers a roundup of practical strategies offered at the 2015 U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference.

Getting Smart

From science museums to the Discovery Channel, this educator and mom drives home the importance of encouraging the STEM mindset—even if your own experiences with math and science weren’t stellar.


Microsoft Corp. surveyed both parents of K-12 students and and college students about their perception of STEM education. See the results, which reveal career hopes and parents’ willingness to invest in STEM education.

Sesame Street

From dancing with Elmo to launching trash with Oscar, viewers get a handle on basic science. Full of videos, games and experiments, Sesame Street’s “Little Discoverers” website helps parents explore STEM with their kids.

Manufacture Your Future

Where do robotics, 3D printing and augmented reality come together? In the advanced manufacturing sector. This site assembles a parent’s guide to careers in the field.

Discovery Education

Is a science fair in your child’s future? Get a handle on the entire process with this Discovery Education site, which offers resources on everything from display boards to presentation skills to shopping lists.

Change the Equation

Change the Equation collaborates with schools, communities and states to make STEM education more rigorous for all pre-K-12 students. It pushes for STEM literacy, advocating high standards for each grade.

How Community Colleges Support STEM

Edmonds Community College

The recipient of more than $1.5 million in grants from the NSF, Edmonds Community College actively supports STEM students. It offers tutoring, advising, research projects and professional development.

Tallahassee Community College

Tallahassee Community College provides a STEM Center where students can collaborate; receive mentoring and advising services; tap into internships; and participate in skill-building workshops.

Columbus State Community College

Columbus State Community College gives students a head start in STEM fields with its tuition-free Summer Bridge Program. Science majors participate in hands-on lab work and connect with other new students.

MESA Community College

MESA stands for Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement. Its community college program helps educationally-disadvantaged students throughout California transfer to 4-year colleges and complete STEM degrees.

Wake Tech Community College

Wake Tech Community College launched its Women in STEM Learning Community in 2013. The program offers academic and social support to help female students explore traditionally male-dominated fields.

Houston Community College

Looking for a toehold in the Lone Star state’s high-tech job market? Houston Community College is the go-to place for STEM students in Texas. It awards scholarships of up to $2,500 for students pursuing STEM degrees.

The bottom line is STEM skills are in high demand. With both private-sector support and government funding, schools and their teachers can be instrumental in making today’s students successful in a more competitive world.