SCOTCH PLAINS FANWOOD – At the Board of Education Open Agenda Meeting Thursday night, K-12 Science Supervisor Mridula Bajaj presented an update on the Science 2 Students (S2S) initiative.
The S2S program focuses on changing students’ attitudes towards pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); and improving student aptitude with STEM subject matter. The Scotch Plains Fanwood School District established a partnership with Students 2 Science, Inc. and the SPF Education Enrichment Foundation is providing funding.
On Nov. 4, 40 eighth grade students from Park and Terrill Middle Schools travelled to the S2S facility located in East Hanover. They will return to the facility on Jan. 15 and again on June 6. S2S was started by a group of scientists who wished to have more students motivated to pursue the STEM field. The laboratory in East Hanover is a state-of-art facility. Everyone working there is a volunteer. The 40 eighth-grade students got to be “scientists for a day”, working with sophisticated equipment. The topics of study supplement the eighth-grade school curriculum: properties of matter, solutions and separation of mixtures.
According to The National Math and Science Initiative, only 5 percent of U.S. undergraduates today earn college degrees in science and engineering. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth in the overall STEM work force. Seventeen of the 20 fastest-growing occupations over the coming decade will be in health care and computer fields. “There is a big need at the moment” said Bajaj, who spoke about being recruited from India to fill the shortage. She pointed out that in China 42 percent of the undergraduates earn college degrees in science and engineering. “What do we do?… we need to wake up as a whole nation regarding this problem we are faced with.” The S2S initiative, along with a second initiative, eCYBERMISSION, is designed to “bring the classroom and the students up to the changing times. Kids are more advanced in technology and that’s what we need.”
Scotch Plains Fanwood Public Schools applied for, and was awarded, a districtwide grant from eCYBERMISSION of $19,000. The grant will allow 1,000 students from grades 6-8 to participate in a challenge. eCYBERMISSION is a Web-based Science, Technology, Engineering and Math competition where each team proposes a solution to a real problem in their community. Students compete for State, Regional, and National Awards.