Geology students, for instance, spend several days on Pike's Peak in the Rocky Mountains studying the terrain, rather than examining rocks in a lab. That level of immersion in a single topic, he surmises, leads to an increased interest in science, even at a relatively small liberal arts college. "The concept of doing one hour of science, then having to run to history, then having to run to language in a semester system is less [appealing] than the concept of 18 class periods in 3½ weeks, [where] you'll get out in the field," Hatch says.
Ultimately, financial incentives or immersion may not be the sole ways to lure the requisite number of students into STEM fields, Brown says. Finding a way to make math and science "cool," he says, will be key to meeting tomorrow's STEM workforce demands. He points to the science fair President Obama held at the White House last October as an example of efforts to make science more appealing to a younger generation.
"This is the tougher and more meaningful [problem that needs to be addressed]—what do kids think is cool?" Brown notes. "It's nice to have a commander in chief who says we should honor science fair students like we honor basketball champions. That makes a difference."
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