Bridging in Gaps in STEM Education with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

By Audrey Xu

According to the Institute for STEM Education and Research, in the past decade, STEM education has become one of the largest reform movements in K-12 education. Many people think STEM education is effective in improving student’s education performance and outcome. 

A meta-analysis paper from Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology concluded that there are 56 quantitative studies that took place during 2014-2021 that showed the association of STEM education to students’ academic success was statistically high. In addition, students can also improve their critical thinking with STEM education based on a study from Journal of Education in Science, Environment and Health. They conducted a case study where they implemented two STEM activities to 30 7th graders in Istanbul province for 20 course hours over 5 weeks. Quantitative data was measured through the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) and the STEM Perception Test before and after the activities. Furthermore, qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews. By the end of this case study, researchers found the students had increased critical thinking and STEM perceptions as well as better career awareness. In addition, many STEM curriculum involve project-based learning, which is proven to help students master their problem-solving, spatial thinking, geographic skill, math performance, and self-efficiency. Moreover, based on a study from Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, STEM project-based learning also fosters student’s interest and resilience in their education and careers. 

AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles recently sponsored a 10-week aquaculture course at the Oscar de la Hoya Animo Charter High School to get students interested in learning more about this field and enable them to practically apply what they have learned in the classroom into real life. This charter school is located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. The high school is composed of 98% Latino students, over 90% of which are low-income. A typical student from an underserved school like Oscar de la Hoya Animo can be at risk for limited resources or lower quality of education; the aquaculture program allowed students who face these barriers to still engage in STEM education. 

Alan Hill, AltaSea’s Education Manage who has been a school teacher and outdoor science instructor for 30 years, expressed that STEM education can help further the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An article in Global Governance Forum indicated that education is key for sustainable development goals. According to the Education Policy Commons, the SDGs, which work to “address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice,” are proven to be effective in terms of sustainability. Teaching STEM advances progress towards the SDGs while also equipping students with the soft and hard skills needed to succeed in the world.

When it comes to implementing SDGs through STEM education, there are challenges and benefits  to consider. Hill stated that the benefit of STEM education can not only improve student’s school performance, but also cultivate their interests, help them have a stable career as well as contribute to the blue economy and conservations out there. Hill also believes that such STEM education can be closely tied to the studnet’s future success since it can help the cyclic poverty cycle when their classroom knowledge can be applied to their job. To further SDGs via STEM education, AltaSea is excited to continue to help implement programs and curriculums in its local K-12 schools and community college.  

Audrey Xu is a senior at Stanford University studying Human Biology. She is passionate about writing and learning about issues in education, environmental science, and health through an equity lens. Although she did not come from a journalism background, she had exposed and witnessed many events by living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves to spend time outdoors. Before writing for AltaSea, she had written articles for AcclimateWest on youth engagement, environmental justice and climate change.

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