Following a commitment from President Obama to encourage more STEM education opportunities for young Americans, the White House has announced the launch of a brand new advisory outreach program called "Kids Science Advisors." The purpose of the new initiative is to encourage students to share their views on the future of science and to inspire the next generation of innovators.
At the 6th Annual White House Fair in April, President Obama met 9-year-old home-schooled scientist and inventor Jacob Leggete from Baltimore. Using a 3D printer, Jacob managed to create everything from a bubble-blowing wand to a mini model of the White House. The future engineer from Baltimore approached the President and asked whether he had a kid science advisory board, writes Moriah Balingit of the Washington Post. Obama immediately liked the idea and suggested young learners should have a say about their science education. During his speech at the ceremony, the President noted:
"Science is very important for the progress of our nation. Science, math, engineering is what is going to carry America's spirit of innovation through the 21st century and beyond. We should bring together a group of kids to share their thoughts on what they thing is important in science, technology, and innovation."
Asked for comment, Jacob's mother, Stephanie Leggete, said:
"If my 9-year-old gave the president an idea and it went this far, then any 9-year-old who looks around and sees something they want to improve, they have something to say."
Inspired by Jacob's idea, the White House launched a dedicated website where the children may share their views on science, technology, engineering, and math education.
Over the course of his presidency, Obama has actively pushed for increased STEM education, writes Lulu Chang of Digital Trends. In 2011, he established The Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (CoSTEM), to coordinate federal programs and initiatives that support STEM education. The President also called for 100,000 STEM educators by 2021, and the government recently allocated $4 billion for states and $100 million for school districts to guarantee access to STEM education across the country, writes Brendan Byrne of the ValueWalk.
The United States lags behind other developed nations with STEM proficiency. According to the most recent data from 2012, the US is in 27th place in math and 20th in science among all the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, notes Olivia Lowenberg of the Christian Science Monitor.
In 2013, a study revealed that 26 percent of eighth graders in the States tested below proficiency in math, and African-American and Latino students continue to lag behind their peers. The study emphasized that it was not lack of motivation from students' side; the results were mainly due to the lack of equal access to the same rigorous coursework and preparatory materials their white and Asian peers had.
The U.S. Department of Education has also been working hard to improve these statistics by increasing the number of science teachers and encouraging students with genuine interests in the STEM disciplines.
The dedicated web page where young learners may share their views and ideas about STEM education is already live on the White House blog. Students may submit their ideas by June 18.