Throughout the year, the Arboretum’s youth education department is constantly busy creating programs, events, camps and classes that encourage children to get outdoors and explore nature. Beyond just splashing in Bent Creek or hiking along the trails, the youth education program focuses on delivering educational experiences that create a purposeful, engaging and experiential approach to science and outdoor education. Studies show that outdoor learning provides hands-on, real-world opportunities for discovery that excite and motivate children to later pursue 21st century careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The Power of STEM

STEM-Logo-15ij3bgAccording to the U.S. Department of Commerce, workers in STEM fields play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and are a critical component in its overall growth. While relatively small in number, careers in STEM have an outsize impact on a nation’s competitiveness, economic growth and overall standard of living. Education demands of STEM careers continue to advance rapidly, and jobs across the economy are requiring greater levels of technical skill and education than ever before.

Another study found that more than 2.8 million job openings will be available for workers in STEM by the year 2018, and 92 percent of these jobs will require at least some postsecondary education.  While there are currently 3.6 unemployed workers for every unfilled job in the U.S., in STEM fields, there is only one unemployed STEM worker for every two unfilled jobs.

Stimulating Interest

While there continues to be an abundance of careers in the fields of STEM, unfortunately, not enough young people are being educated or inspired about STEM. There are many efforts underway to change this mindset, and hundreds of programs and initiatives are now available to promote STEM in North Carolina and across the country.

As one of its many youth education initiatives, The North Carolina Arboretum will host its 5th annual Mountain Science Expo this Saturday, April 9 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Picture1Families across western North Carolina will get a glimpse into the many facets of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) and learn how these industries are incorporated into our everyday lives. The Expo is part of the North Carolina Science Festival, a multi-day celebration held throughout the state, and will feature hands-on demonstrations and experiments from dozens of STEAM professionals, including Asheville Greenworks, Bricks 4 Kidz, RiverLink, and the WNC Nature Center. This year’s event will also feature science fair exhibits from more than 25 Western North Carolina school students who participated in the Arboretum’s Project EXPLORE program.

So, whether you are a student, parent, teacher, mentor or employer, it’s important to get children involved in STEM/STEAM early on. Events like the Mountain Science Expo are a great way to introduce children to these opportunities where innovation and creativity lead the way. Who knows? Maybe you will help influence the next Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein!