Most Students Are Not Naturally Interested in STEM, Teachers Say

By Madeline Will — June 08, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Most middle and high school students are not interested in science, math, and even space, teachers said in a new national poll.

The poll, commissioned by Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defense contracting company, asked 1,000 U.S. middle and high school teachers about their views on student interest in science and math. Only 38 percent said the majority of their students seem naturally interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The sample is nationally representative, and the survey was conducted online from April 5-11.

Out of those four subjects, 69 percent of teachers said their students are most interested in technology. Forty-two percent said their students are most interested in science, 25 percent of teachers’ students are most interested in engineering, and just 14 percent of teachers said their students are most interested in math.

Fewer than half of teachers—41 percent—said their students are eager to learn about space-related topics like planets, the solar system, space travel, and space exploration milestones.

What does that mean for future space missions? Lockheed Martin says that the first human mission to Mars will take place in the 2030s—meaning that the crew members are likely sitting in classrooms right now. To help bridge the gap between students’ enthusiasm and the country’s need for future scientists, engineers, and space explorers, the company released free resources, developed in partnership with Discovery Education, for middle school teachers to engage their students in STEM subjects.

The resources include space-themed lesson plans and activities, like a space-exploration career survey and a project to design a vehicle that can launch into space. Lockheed Martin also put out a free virtual-reality app that gives students an interactive tour of Mars. (Last year, Lockheed Martin built a school bus that simulates the experience of traveling across Mars’ surface.)

Meanwhile, the teachers surveyed had some ideas about how to get their students interested. A quarter said their current school curriculum does not sufficiently prepare students for a STEM career, and a majority—65 percent—said they need standards-aligned supplemental STEM resources for students. More money would also help: Only 31 percent of teachers said the school budget is sufficient to prepare students for a STEM career.

Finally, many indicated current advances in space exploration could pique students’ interests: 52 percent of teachers said it would help if there was a return to the moon in the near future.

For more ideas on how teachers can encourage their students’ interest in space, check out this blog in which a middle school teacher describes how she uses a science simulator, social media, and other hands-on activities in class to get her students excited about learning.

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action, licensed under Creative Commons

More on Cultivating Students’ Interest in STEM:

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.