There’s a lot of talk about the importance of STEM education, and the need for STEM toys — but what exactly is STEM, anyway? Put simply, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: four disciplines that students, particularly young women, are often discouraged from pursuing, either because it’s intimidating, or considered “dorky.”
But one New Jersey teen is aiming to change all that. Samantha Rizzuto, who founded the outreach program STEM-CAM at Morris Hills High School, sat down with Steve Adubato, PhD, host of One-on-One with Steve Adubato, to discuss what she’s doing to change attitudes about STEM education.
Laying the Groundwork for STEM
As a teacher’s helper in fourth grade, she recognized how much power and influence an older student holds over younger ones. “They look up to you,” she said. “They think that you’re cool and they want to be just like you.”
This led her to found STEM-CAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics through Building Confidence, Changing Attitudes, and Mentoring Programs), an outreach program which harnesses the power of being an older student. In STEM-CAM, Rizzuto and other high schoolers engage with younger kids to get them excited about math and science.
“I love math and science,” Rizzuto says. “It was a passion of mine and I really wanted to instill it in other young students before stereotypes come in and make it too dorky or too geeky, or, ‘I’m a girl so I can’t do it.'”
That’s where STEM-CAM comes in: The program focuses on kids from second to fifth grade (although they do work with younger children, all the way up to middle school), and offers hands-on science experiments in a fun way to allow children to engage with math and science.
The Highs and Lows of Early Success
Meanwhile, the program led to Rizzuto winning the Governor’s Jefferson Award, which recognizes people who are working to benefit their community, in 2014.
Of course, STEM-CAM did have its challenges at first, Rizzuto admits. “It’s difficult to ask an adult, ‘Hey can you leave me with twenty-five students who are between second and fifth grade, and it’s just going to be me and a couple of my high school friends?'” But one librarian did say yes — and now STEM-CAM operates out of seven libraries.
Click below for more on STEM-CAM — and to learn how Rizzuto is incorporating her passion for math and science into her platform for Miss America’s teen programs — in this edition of One-on-One with Steve Adubato.
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