What do IBM and a group of five-year-olds have in common? They both have creative minds that could change the world.
That’s why IBM and other companies recognize the value of investing in early education: so today’s young children will have the skills to become tomorrow’s STEM employees (science, technology, engineering and math.)
The link between early education and the business community will be highlighted in a webinar called “Start Early with STEM” that’s being hosted on Monday, August 5, 2013, at 3 p.m. (Eastern time), by ReadyNation, a nonprofit business partnership for early childhood and economic success.
The webinar will cover “the latest early childhood STEM education research and how the business community is supporting the development of early childhood STEM through smart policy advocacy and community initiatives.”
The speakers include: Greg Duncan, a professor of education at the University of California, Irvine; Marcy Reed, National Grid president, Massachusetts; and JD Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and the chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care.
In a recent Education Week article, Chesloff wrote about STEM and early education and the value of investing early to meet the economy’s increasing demand for STEM skills. Our STEM policy brief is another resource for advocates and policy makers.
The upcoming webinar builds on a ReadyNation brief, which notes, “Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to orbit the earth, knew she wanted to be a scientist when she was five years old. Fortunately, her teachers nurtured this interest. How many more five-year-olds can we encourage to become tomorrow’s scientific leaders?”
That’s a challenge for parents, educators and business leaders as well as government officials who help create or fund publicly accessible programs. Such efforts could start a STEM pipeline in preschool programs or even earlier.
As a philosophical foundation for giving children an early STEM start, the brief highlights four key facts:
- “The math achievement gap starts early, even before kindergarten.”
- “High-quality early education includes real math and science content.”
- “Early math instruction improves later ability.”
- “Early learning also helps build the behavior traits—perseverance, problem-solving, patience—that STEM employees need.”
The brief also points to ways that businesses are beginning to bring STEM activities to very young children including the following:
- “Boeing is a founding supporter of Thrive by Five Washington, a public-private partnership that is helping build a comprehensive early learning system in the state.” Boeing’s funds help pay for a program that includes numeracy skills.
- “National Grid has partnered with the Boston Children’s Museum to create and distribute STEM teaching kits for child care facilities, pre-schools, Head Start centers, and public school kindergartens.”
- PNC, a financial services company, has, through its PNC Foundation, worked with Sesame Street to support a “planetarium show that travels via a mobile dome to early learning centers to provide preschoolers with lessons on math, astronomy and science.”
Businesses can do more, the brief says, by supporting access to high-quality early education programs, supporting STEM training for pre-k and grade-school teachers, and providing expertise, volunteers and resources to preschools.
“Finding skilled workers will be a constant challenge for American businesses as they compete in the global marketplace,” the brief concludes. “To keep our STEM workforce competitive, we need to develop the young learners who will start the innovative companies and make the scientific breakthroughs that our country needs.”