Making STEAM Education More Equitable and Accessible

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The Georgia Institute of Technology consistently sets the standard for innovative science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education in Georgia. The Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics & Computing (CEISMC) utilizes the resources and expertise of the Georgia Tech community to enhance K-12 education and to prepare students for college and careers in STEAM fields. One of the goals of CEISMC is to address the lack of equitable access to STEAM education and opportunities for many students today.

“Research has shown that out-of-school experiences are important to students pursuing STEAM subjects and careers,” said Chris Thompson, Associate Director of Technology and Student Activities at CEISMC. “CEISMC works hard through numerous programs such as Horizons, KIDS Club, Summer PEAKS, FIRST Lego League, and InVenture to make sure all students have an opportunity to participate in these experiences. In particular, we focus on underrepresented groups and work hard to close the opportunity gap for these students.”

There are many factors that may contribute to the lack of equitable opportunities in STEAM. Disparities in access to STEAM education are often rooted in historical inequalities that affect the funding and resources schools receive.

Programs such as GoSTEM seek to increase academic achievement in these special populations by creating a research-supported model for how technical universities, school systems, and philanthropic foundations can partner to promote academic success in STEM fields among Hispanic K-12 students.

The CAPACiTY project seeks to broaden the pipeline of students into computer science through relevant and culturally authentic project-based instructional materials for the high school Introduction to Digital Technology pathway.

“Our society was not founded for everybody to be equal, so, those things carry on in generational wealth, in generational access to education, and in generational poverty,” said CEISMC Associate Director of School and Community Engagement Dr. Tamara Pearson.

 Many schools lack sufficient resources to teach students the skills necessary for STEAM fields, or to expose students to STEAM fields at all. Opportunities students have in school are crucial to informing the professional paths they pursue later in life.

“A lot of kids say, ‘I don’t want to be an engineer or mathematician. Why does algebra matter?’ I always used to tell my students that it is not about what you think you want to be right now, it is about giving you the most options possible,” Pearson said.

Although educators are responsible for exposing students to new ideas and opportunities, they may lack the tools to do this effectively. Teachers face many challenges and pressures that may make it difficult to change their practices.

That is why it is important to influence teacher mindsets and increase their skills both inside and outside of the classroom. Professional development programs at CEISMC such as the Georgia Intern Fellowship for Teachers (GIFT) allow educators to gain meaningful professional experiences in research or industrial settings that enhance teaching and learning.

“Bringing teachers to a place like Georgia Tech to talk to researchers – or taking them to businesses so they can meet industry professionals who are actually doing the work they are preparing students for – really gives teachers more in their toolbox of ideas,” Pearson said.

In a similar way, the STEAM Leadership Conference is an opportunity for STEAM decision makers such as superintendents, curriculum coordinators, principals, academic coaches, and content specialists to enrich their own toolboxes of ideas. The conference is hosted by CEISMC and takes place at Georgia Tech on May 10 and 11. It is designed to help STEAM decision makers implement meaningful STEAM education within their districts and schools.

The conference will feature hands-on workshops, panel discussions, and keynote speeches that focus on the theme “We are the Future: Advancing Diversity and Equity in STEAM.” Leaders in education from Georgia and beyond will share their strategies for creating environments that invite all students to engage with STEAM concepts and thrive.

The conference also highlights the importance of incorporating the arts into STEAM curriculum. Many of the partnerships that CEISMC fosters with Georgia school districts have a significant focus on the arts. In 2018, CEISMC developed and evaluated a curriculum in five different Georgia school districts that utilized the software platform EarSketch, which allows anyone with an Internet connection to learn computer science through music remixing.

“Using music as a way to engage makes learning programming fun, enjoyable, and accessible,” said CEISMC Research Associate Doug Edwards. Edwards develops high school curricula using EarSketch and assists with the professional development for teachers who use it. Using EarSketch music samples that include contemporary genres like hip hop, students learn to code as they create their own art in the form of songs and ringtones.

Projects such as this demonstrate how STEAM education has become more accessible to students in the metro Atlanta area and other parts of the country; however, there are still many places where access to quality STEAM education remains inequitable. For this reason, it is important to continue to broaden preconceived ideas about STEAM that many students may have. Promoting the mindset that all students can thrive in STEAM subjects through platforms like the STEAM Leadership Conference is an important step towards providing equitable opportunities for K-12 students in every classroom.


By Rosemary Pitrone - CEISMC Communications


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Steven Taylor
  • Created:04/23/2019
  • Modified By:Steven Taylor
  • Modified:05/31/2019