What it Means to be STEM Literate

You can read, right? You’re literate? It’s a silly question, I know. If you couldn’t read, you probably wouldn’t be on my blog! We sometimes take literacy for granted. Even our worst rank school systems produce students who can read a newspaper or blog. Are we as confident about our science literacy? Do we even know how to measure it?

Now, this is far from my first blog post on this subject. but I felt that it warranted a second visit, especially since some new material has recently surfaced on the subject!

Emily Calandrelli gave a TEDx talk just a few months ago on the subject of STEM literacy, and the video of the presentation was just uploaded to YouTube last week. If you aren’t familiar with TEDx, Emily, or STEM, allow me to fill you in.

First, TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and topics can range from science to business to poetry to history. A TEDx event is a local gathering where live TED-like talks and videos previously recorded at TED conferences are shared with the community.

Emily Calandrelli is a West Virginia native (I KNOW!) and WVU with a masters degree from MIT in in Aeronautics & Astronautics and Technology & Policy. She’s also the producer and host of a pretty amazing show, Xploration Outer Space. Emily is passionate about lots of things, like the space program, science policy, women in STEM and yes, STEM literacy.

If you aren’t familiar with STEM, STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. We often refer to STEM industry, such as scientist or engineer, STEM education, such as math and computer classes and STEM literacy, or the ability to understand and apply concepts from science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Emily’s talk is 16 minutes long, but packed full of insight into the importance of STEM literacy.

A few months ago I blogged about this topic and shared some of my favorite tweets from planetary scientist, writer and public speaker, Emily Lakdawalla.

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 1.16.11 PM

Her tweets get right to the point of the importance of science literacy and summarize the points Emily makes in her talk.

Appalachia’s economy, politics, history, geography and livelihood rely on the materials we can pull from the earth. While my GEO 101 course taught me the intricacies behind the making of coal, it failed to tell me why I should care. I learned about what a water table was, but it didn’t tell me how hydraulic fracturing could endanger it, or what happens when it dries up.

As it turns out, though, physicists, journalists, geologists, historians, engineers and athletes all need energy and water, and therefore must recognize the need for science and art and learn how to effectively utilize the collision of the two. Educators at all levels, elementary through college, must tackle this problem head-on. You don’t have to absolutely love every academic field out there, and it’s ok to be better at one over another, but students have to recognize how important literacy on all levels really is.

What’s your college degree or area of employment? How did classes outside of that area affect you? Tweet at me or comment below to join in on the conversation. Also I encourage you to following Emily on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about all things STEM.

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