CREDIT: PAUL A. SPECHT, staff writer - Eastern Wake News
KNIGHTDALE - Knightdale 100 has scheduled a forum for Thursday to inform residents about new science-and-math-based curriculums at local schools.
Earlier this year, East Wake Middle and Knightdale High became part of the STEM network, which provides select schools with advanced technology and new learning techniques to help teachers promote a focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
Knightdale 100 had lobbied for the two schools to become part of the STEM network.
To promote the program, the group has announced it will hold a forum at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 22 at Knightdale Town Hall.
And to headline its event, the local nonpartisan advocacy group has courted Sam Houston, president and CEO of the N.C. Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center.
Houston, a renowned educator and prolific speaker, will lead the discussion on the benefits of a STEM education.
"One thing we've always known but have never done a lot about is the fact that the grade school and college experiences aren't like the real world," Houston said last week in a phone interview. "When schools begin to use information like we do in our adult world, then it has more value and meaning. With STEM, teachers become more facilitator than instructor, and students do more critical thinking."
STEM schools receive additional funding and resources - from science kits to iPads - as well as training for teachers.
In a press release announcing the forum, the group stressed the need for parents to encourage students in math and science.
"Half a century ago, the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of Sputnik. This daunting threat inspired science research and education that led to a boom in U.S. innovation, industry, and jobs," the release says. "Today our Sputniks are tremendous environmental challenges that include energy, disease, clean air, clean water, and food supplies. STEM is our modern educational catalyst for ... enabling our children to resolve these 21st Century problems."
According to a report released in July by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economics and Statistics Administration, students trained in STEM fields have a better chance of finding work.
Also, in the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs, the report said.
That growth is expected to continue in the next decade.
STEM workers also command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts and STEM degree-holders earn more, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations, according to the report.
Catherine Dameron, a parent and advocate with Knightdale 100, says she hopes Houston's speech will spur more involvement in local schools.
"Everybody we've spoken with says they'll come even if it's just hear Sam (Houston) because he's so good," Dameron said. "We hope parents will give teachers more support with whatever it is they may need so their kids can get the most out of this opportunity for a STEM education."
Knightdale Town Hall is located at 950 Steeple Square Court.