Tracy Elmore said that when COVID-19 was spreading across South Carolina, she didn’t see how she would be able to sanitize the many metal pieces her students use to build robots, so she found an alternative.
Elmore, a STEM teacher at Lugoff-Elgin Middle School in Kershaw County, put the robot pieces away and instead had students build projects with recyclables. Her 6th-grade class, for example, made Cinderella carriages that students rolled down a ramp and then measured the distance.
It’s one of many ways STEM educators across the state adapted to the pandemic, and now their time has come to get some much-deserved recognition.
South Carolina’s annual STEM Education Month started Sunday and runs through April 11. The month is aimed at supporting STEM educators, quality STEM programs and initiatives that give all students the opportunity to see themselves in STEM careers.
Elmore, who was the 2020 state STEM Teacher of the Year, said the pandemic has given teachers a chance to evolve their curricula and find new ways to help students grow and be successful in life.
“We’re going to come out of this even stronger than what we were before the pandemic,” she said. “We’re going to be able to develop a path for integrating virtual education within our community to meet the needs for all of our students.”
STEM Education Month is organized by South Carolina’s Coalition for Mathematics & Science, which is part of Clemson University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
Tom Peters, the coalition’s executive director, said the month is a great opportunity to recognize educators who teach the STEM skills that underpin innovation in a wide variety of industries important to the state.
“Advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, aerospace, agribusiness, automotive, distribution and logistics, and life sciences– they all begin with engaging learning experiences in classrooms, after school programs, and anywhere else great teachers choose to inspire those who dream,” Peters said.
The month helps shine a spotlight on careers that play a growing role in the state’s economy. Employment in the state’s tech firms has risen from 53,661 to 108,276 since 2000, according to a report last year by the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness.
The state’s tech jobs pay an annual average wage of $78,977, a 75% premium over the average South Carolina wage, the report found.
STEM skills are in high demand not only in South Carolina but across the country.
Sixty-seven percent of U.S. jobs and 69% of the nation’s GDP are supported by STEM, with STEM jobs directly accounting for 33% of the economy, according to a report last year, “STEM and the American Workforce.”
While many STEM jobs require a bachelor’s degree, many do not. Fifty-nine percent of Americans working in 195.8 million STEM jobs across 819 occupations, do not hold a bachelor’s degree, according to the report
The month’s main event, STEM Day at the Capitol, starts Wednesday at 10 a.m. and will be streamed here. State, industry, and community leaders will join together to talk about the importance of STEM to South Carolina.
As part of the day’s celebration, the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness will present the 2021 state STEM Educator of the Year.
Amy Baldwin, Oakbrook Middle School, Ladson
Nicole Yemothy, R.H. Gettys Middle School, Easley
Elizabeth Martin, Sanders Middle School, Laurens; Susan Mathews, Richland Northeast High School, Columbia
Whitney Camacho, McColl Elementary Middle School, McColl
Also as part of STEM Education Month four schools have been awarded funds for start-up STEM initiatives. They are:
Forest Lake Elementary School
Colleton County High School
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School
St. Joseph Catholic School
For a full listing of STEM Education Month events, go here.
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