A recently released paper by the nonprofit Education Northwest highlights several ways schools can prepare rural students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math, especially in ways that will allow rural communities to benefit. Nationwide, STEM access is often lacking in rural areas possibly due to a lack of teachers, a lack of access to summer and after-school STEM programs, and little awareness of STEM careers.
A 2014 report found that graduates of rural schools are less likely than their non-rural peers to have completed a sequence of high school science of classes, including biology, chemistry, and physics. In some states, like Montana, improving STEM instruction is such a priority that new federal money is being used specifically to boost math and science instruction in rural and tribal schools.
Education Northwest suggests several strategies to improve STEM opportunities for rural students. Here are a few:
1. Educators can help students find “meaningful and challenging work” in their own communities by designing community-based projects that incorporate STEM. For example, students could partner with farmers to collect and analyze data on animals, or could “redesign a common household device and build a prototype” of their idea.
2. Rural schools could work together to design and offer online STEM courses and video-conferencing with professionals.
3. Students should have access to “authentic STEM projects.” This means schools may need to partner with companies that can provide software and tools and visit with students.
4. Teachers can partner with graduate students for help with lesson and project plans. This may raise the quality of STEM lessons and provide more support for teachers.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.