At first, the class was like any other at Georgia’s Quitman County Schools. Kids sat in desks while an adult lectured. But despite appearances, this was no ordinary lecture. Schneider Electric organized STEM activities for kids in this Quitman County high school class.
These activities are part of Quitman County’s energy performance contract with Schneider Electric and designed to engage students in a STEM-inspired engineering shadowing program focused on energy conservation.
“I am always amazed at the level of engagement we get from students when we get out of the classroom,” says Quent Mather, Schneider Electric project development manager. “That’s why I think it’s very important to host these hands-on and real-life learning experiences.”
Quitman Superintendent, Victoria L. Harris, Ed.S., couldn’t agree more. “We’re always looking for ways to expand our STEM curriculum so when we found out Schneider Electric offered this opportunity we couldn’t have been happier,” she says. “The fact that it was part of our energy efficiency savings program was just icing on the cake.”
The Need for STEM
Quitman County Schools is just one example of how Schneider Electric is using its programs to not only help K-12 schools tackle maintenance backlogs and bring schools into the 21st Century — but also fund expanded STEM education and curriculum opportunities.
Educators like Harris know the need for better STEM education is more crucial than ever. In fact, more than 8 million STEM-related jobs will be available in 2018, according to STEMconnector.org. But as many as 600,000 of those jobs will remain unfilled due to a huge shortage in skilled candidates, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At the same time, student interest in STEM education is waning. In fact, only 16% of high school students are interested in a STEM career and are skilled in mathematics. Just 28% of high school freshman state interest in a STEM subject to pursue in higher education. And 57% of these students are predicted to lose interest by the time they graduate from high school, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Schneider Electric’s STEM Support
After listening to educators at hundreds of partner schools nationwide, Schneider Electric recognized an opportunity to offer new STEM education experiences. Starting with a number of STEM-related activities that complement our energy saving and facility revitalization projects. Here are three examples:
- Conserve My Planet. This activity is an educational energy-savings program for K-12 schools. It’s a fun behavioral modification program that motivates students, teachers and staff to take an active role in smart, efficient energy use in school and at home.
- Green Teams. Schneider Electric will meet with teachers and staff to present ideas for student engagement including energy policy development, STEM programs and scholarships. Many times, Green Teams are a natural extension of existing science clubs.
- Energy University. Energy University is a free, online educational resource offered by Schneider Electric to the public at large. More than 200 vendor-neutral courses are available on energy efficiency topics to help individuals identify, implement and monitor efficiency improvements within their organization.
We also work with our clients to host of STEM-related special events — Earth Day celebrations, tree plantings, energy usage monitoring, solar battery demonstrations, career fairs and job shadowing — as tools to teach kids about the sustainability work going on at their schools and to plant the seeds for a future in science and math.
Additionally, we are partnered with Accelerate Learning to provide STEMscopes, the leading provider of STEM digital curriculum. STEMscopes gives teachers and students digital resources, supplemental print materials and interactive exploration kits that build student engagement and excitement for learning science. The hands-on STEM curriculum creates engaging learning experiences that encourage exploration and inspire ingenuity. It is used by 200,000 teachers and serves more than 4 million students in all 50 states. And best of all, it can be incorporated into an energy efficiency and facility improvement project with Schneider Electric.
Engaging Students with Hands-On Experiences
The student engineering shadowing program at Quitman County Schools illustrates how pairing those energy conservation programs with STEM-related events and activities is a great way to engage students in a real-world fashion that may lead to untapped science and math interests — and future careers.
“The STEM field is incredibly broad and can offer many unique and fulfilling career paths for interested students,” Harris says. “These kinds of hands-on programs give our students here at Quitman County a glimpse of what that might look like. That’s invaluable.”
As someone who went into a STEM-related field, Schneider Electric’s Mather is just the person to help give them that viewpoint. He was particularly impressed that even Quitman students who weren’t currently interested in a STEM career could see how energy conservation measures applied to their lives.
“At one point, I could see the light bulb going on for them, and they were tying it back to their studies,” Mather says. “To show them a field I’m excited about is a really unique experience as an engineer. I just hope one of them gets excited and ultimately ends up pursuing a STEM career. That would be extremely fulfilling.”
To learn more about how Schneider Electric can help with your school save energy and build new STEM curriculum, go to www.schneider-electric.us/enable.