Every week, EPIC Superintendent Bart Banfield explores topics related to education, learning, leadership and more. Be sure to check back each week for the latest.

Full STEM Ahead!

Being the state’s largest virtual charter school, EPIC relies heavily on technology to meet the needs of the students and families it serves. That technology which makes it possible to serve nearly 30,000 students statewide was developed over time by people who dedicated their lives to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Since today is National STEM/STEAM day, it’s a perfect opportunity to examine the importance these fields play in our culture.

It’s no secret that science and technology are making advancements faster than at any point in human history. In fact, according to data from the Pew Research Center, STEM occupations have grown 79% since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth. Similar data also shows that there are not enough students pursuing an expertise in STEM fields to keep up with the demand for workers in those fields. Further, STEM workers tend to make more money than their non-STEM counterparts, even without a college degree.

Historically, a common belief has been that boys are inherently better at math than girls and, as such, end up in STEM fields more often. However, new findings published in the journal “Science of Learning” show that is not the case, that boys’ and girls’ brains both begin with the same amount of math ability.

Getting kids curious about math and science at a young age encourages critical thinking skills, lays the foundation for STEM employment opportunities in the future and can develop a lifelong love of learning. EPIC families have many opportunities to spark a love of STEM, the biggest of which is our Court of Dreams event. Held each year in December at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, hundreds of EPIC students will gather to take part in basketball-themed math activities and have a wonderful time doing it. Also, I am proud to announce that EPIC’s first-ever LEGO robotics teams are making headway in the area of engineering while making friends and having fun.

Turning everyday occurrences into learning opportunities is another way to get kids interested in STEM activities. A local election can turn into a conversation about percentages and math. Making dinner can become a lesson about chemical reactions with food. A rainy day is a chance to learn about weather patterns and the importance of water to the life cycle. The possibilities are endless.

Taking the time to engage the learner in your life about science, technology, engineering, the arts and math will reap benefits that can last a lifetime.

Dare Greatly,