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5 Ways to Encourage Minority Students to Enter the STEAM Industry

A recent National Academies Organization report indicates that more than 20 million young Americans of color are underrepresented in the STEAM education and workforce sector compared to the general population. Many wonder if there's a remedy to this situation.

Here are five ways to encourage minority students to enter the STEAM industry.

How to Encourage Minority Groups to Enter the STEAM Space

Javier Aguilar, a 6th-year bilingual technology and computer science teacher, believe educators should act to nurture diversity in the STEM field and encourage underrepresented minorities to come on board. He encourages educators to apply different approaches until they discover what works for their students.

1. Recognize the Student's Potential

Most minority students join a STEAM class with little experience in robotics and other core subjects. Interestingly, this is true regardless of gender considerations. Usually, girls tend to shun leadership or speaking opportunities in class more than their male counterparts.

Consider what Mr. Aguilar does: He deals with this by appointing team leaders to create a balance among the genders and changes the game by assigning girls to team captain positions. Moreover, he doesn't have to rely on volunteers, which can be difficult to obtain.

Interestingly, the girls always rise to the occasion and eventually complete the course fired up and proud. The teacher nudges students out of their comfort zone and challenges them to act!

2. Reward Student Efforts and Engage Parents

As a teacher, you have seen how many students struggle and get frustrated working on a robotics or coding lesson. These fields have no right or wrong answer. What's the solution? Educators should take the bull by the horns and tell students it's okay to have problems and challenges. Yes, even if they fail—it's okay. Additionally, give your students grades for their efforts; don't reward correct answers only.

There's another thing teachers need to do—involve parents. Consider this: What if you taught some parents a few technological concepts? Shared learning would encourage their kids and push them to follow through with their STEAM interests.

This is precisely what Mr. Aguilar does—he teaches a group of parents in an open house. He helps them answer questions touching on the systems used in school and explains the value of engaging their children's success concerning STEAM. Mr. Aguilar's strategy works!

3. Involve Students in Hands-On Projects

Educators should let minority students develop confidence through hands-on projects. Try setting up a computer science class with LEGO solution-filled totes. Students can utilize these to explore, build, and create their ideas. Moreover, start teaching STEAM concepts and coding when the students are young; do so as early as pre-k if possible.

By introducing these concepts early, the learners get comfortable with them much sooner. Eventually, it fires up their confidence to pursue these subjects later in life.

4. Encourage Community Learning Opportunities for Women

As a teacher, you can expose girls to STEAM and encourage their participation in special programs. To illustrate, some educators organize STEAM seminars and in-school programs to encourage women and girls to embrace STEAM. Others use out-of-school programs to increase this group's awareness of the opportunities available in STEAM careers.

Karen Purcell, a veteran educator, notes that while US higher education receives worldwide acclaim, the focus doesn't seem strong enough to educate scientists and engineers. Compared to other leading nations, the US lags behind. She believes US educators aren't encouraging their female students to pursue careers in STEAM.

Happily, some popular organizations—like Girl Scouts of the USA—are now giving more attention to these efforts.

5. Support Companies Offering Women Internships

Some leading organizations and companies do a sterling job of providing girls and women with a chance to explore the possibilities available in the STEAM field, including summer internships. Others offer career days and job shadowing programs.

Here's how it works: If a young woman is interested in a specific field, she gets to follow an employee who already works in the field for a few days—she learns what the work entails. She observes the typical activities and duties and gets a feel of what it means to work. And their interest ignites as they ride the waves!

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, these strategies expose minority groups to STEAM industry possibilities. As you teach your students, look for ways to encourage students of color and women to explore a career in STEAM.

Written by John Ndar
Education World Contributor
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