What is STEM Literacy?

STEM literacy is the ability to identify, apply, and integrate concepts from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to understand complex problems and to innovate to solve them.  To understand and address the challenge of achieving STEM literacy for all students begins with understanding and defining its component parts and the relationships between them.

Scientific literacy is the ability to use knowledge in physics, chemistry, biology, and earth/space science to understand the natural world and to participate in decisions that affect it.

Technological literacy is the ability to use new technologies, understand how new technologies are developed, and have skills to analyze how new technologies affect us, our nation, and the world.

Engineering literacy is the ability to use the systematic and creative application of scientific and mathematic principles to practical ends, such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems.

Mathematical literacy is the ability to analyze, reason, and communicate ideas effectively through posing, formulating, solving, and interpreting solutions to mathematical problems in a variety of situations.

1. What is STEM?

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

2. Who is the Washington State STEM Education Foundation (STEM Foundation)?

The STEM Foundationis a non-profit educational organization incorporated in Washington state in 2009 and located in the Tri-Cities area (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland). Delta High School is the initial and signature project of the STEM Foundation. Delta High School is a STEM education focused high school, with a big footprint. It represents a much bigger aspiration of options for our kids and fuels stronger educational systems locally and nationally.

3. How is the STEM Foundation funded?

The STEM Foundation is funded by forward thinking corporate and individual donors and other non-profit foundations.

4. How do you know when STEM literacy is achieved?  STEM literacy is achieved when a student is able to apply his or her understanding of how the world works within and across the four interrelated STEM disciplines to improve the social, economic, and environmental conditions of their local and global community.

5. Why is STEM literacy so important?  STEM skills are vital to be successful in the 21st century and critical to our collective future. Every grand challenge our world faces will be impacted by STEM. Every job, even the ones you wouldn’t expect, will require at least basic STEM skills. Research shows that STEM skills are transferable and needed in every job sector. This is not only vital to our community it is essential to maintain scientific and technological leadership as a country; for economic growth, national security and our future.

6. What is the STEM Foundation doing to advance STEM education?

Delta High School is the initial and signature project of the foundation. Partnering with our visionary school systems and community partners here in the Tri-Cities to create another option for students, we are providing opportunities for our educators to learn new ways of teaching and our students with new ways of learning.  Delta High School presents a unique learning proposition to the students, families, and communities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland.  This school marks the first major collaboration among these three school districts—and the businesses, community college,  higher education and community organizations within those communities.

STEM IS NOT…a movement to educate only the best and the brightest. STEM schools don’t just cater to the economically well off or the geographically providential.

STEM SCHOOLS ARE...most often public schools. They draw students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, basing their admission on little more than the child’s will to achieve.

STEM School Design Principles

STEM schools employ a specific set of design principles that distinguish them from other schools.

  1. STEM embraces a comprehensive education philosophy, based on student inquiry and experience.Teaching Institute for Essential Science (TIES), Attributes of STEM Education, 2006 

  2. STEM schools thrive in a connected P-16 education continuum, where students cultivate a passion for mathematics and science in the early grades and earn college credit and work experiences in the later grades.Seek-16, Workforce and School, Janice S. Morrison, February 2005
  3. STEM schools educate the “whole” child, incorporating the arts, languages and humanities into student curricula. STEM schools reflect an interdisciplinary approach, offering students the opportunity to make sense of the world around them, rather than learn isolated bits and pieces of subjects in separate forums.TIES, Attributes of STEM Education, Janice S. Morrison, 2006
  4. STEM schools engage students in the “technological design process,” using technology to meet the challenges of life. Learning Science Through Design, David L. Haury, October 2002
  5. STEM schools are collaborative and innovative, built on strong partnerships among K-12 education, higher education and business. They might be co-located on a college campus or a corporate center.