The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that job growth in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields will grow by more than a million between 2012 and 2022. A recent study even ranked the Puget Sound region the leading STEM region in the country, and measured it as having the second-highest rate of STEM jobs in the country.
To foster interest in these important and growing fields, Seattle Children’s takes its mobile Science Adventure Lab into the community for children to get some valuable — and fun — hands-on experience. The 45-foot lab is custom-built and outfitted with research-grade equipment that can accommodate up to 30 students at a time. As the only mobile lab in the region, it has visited more than 150 schools and 57,000 elementary and middle school students in 66 cities. The hands-on approach has been shown to improve test scores and instill a deeper interest in STEM subjects.
“We have found that when we engage kids in science and provide this really positive experience in elementary school, their interest in learning is sustained all the way through middle school,” says Dr. Amanda Jones, director of the Science Education Department at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and co-investigator of a recently published study in PLOS Biology that quantified how many children were experiencing interactive learning activities brought to them in mobile science labs. Across the nation, mobile labs have reached 1.2 million children at nearly 150,000 community events.
The Science Adventure Lab is a large part of the Seattle Children’s Science Education Department, which was launched in 2009 to support classroom science education and to help develop the next generation of scientists and health care leaders.
“Mobile science labs can be a powerful platform for bringing innovative hands-on science education to kids,” Dr. Jones says. “As we know we need to do more to equip kids with the education that will allow them to take advantage of the robust opportunities in the STEM field, we’re pleased to find these labs are effective in enriching classroom education, and in some cases, filling a void in schools where these opportunities don’t exist.”