Today's job market demands training and degrees in STEM-related fields. To better prepare students, teachers are finding ways to incorporate science, technology, engineering and math into their school day. In Oklahoma, we found STEM education begins as early as kindergarten.
At Skyview Elementary School in Yukon, the only requirement in Mrs. Crystal Butcher's classroom is to have an open mind.
"Instead of us being the sage on the stage we're the guide on the side and trying to let them do their own things," she said.
On this day, she's assigned her second graders to build a structure strong enough to withstand an earthquake. The catch is they only get 10 notecards to build it.
"We're not expecting total mastery of anything at this age, just to show them that they can do anything they set their mind to," Butcher said. "They can code, they can build, they can do the science and if it doesn't come out right the first time that we can be flexible and fix that."
"We just kept folding the same things and then we just did that over, and over again and it made it really sturdy," said second grader Lily Orr.
Once they build it, they test it the paper structures on back massagers set up on the floor. The vibrations test their engineering skills.
"Failure is okay and problem solving and team work, it's a lot of social work as much as it is with the actual projects," Butcher said.
Students in kindergarten through third grade attend STEM class once a week at Skyview. The curriculum blends four disciplines, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
"I think it's really fun, since we get to do projects and I feel like technology is just kind of my thing," said second grader Dirk Dekinder.
"I think we see kids who really are finding themselves in these kinds of learning experiences, they see that it's not just some memorization game, it's something that allows you to do something you never thought possible," said Levi Patrick, Asst. Executive Director of Curriculum for the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
In Oklahoma, school districts are integrating STEM education at all levels, from creating special courses to adding activities into their regular science and math classes.
"It can do what you're already doing in math and science, but it might take on a new flavor a new thing that really can excite the kid," said Patrick. "Ideally their having hands on, minds on learning experiences all the time."
"Science and technology go hand it in hand and it's everywhere," said Melanie Weaver, a fourth-grade teacher at Angie Debo Elementary School in Edmond. "There are many engineering things that they do on a daily basis and now they can see how it is and this is just a fun way to show them that they're flying and why and incorporate all the science terms and things with it."
Weaver's fourth graders stepped outside the classroom for a STEM lesson at iFly in Oklahoma City.
"It's probably helping us think outside the box and try to build and create more," said fourth grader Kate Koehn.
The students started by learning how to build their own miniature parachutes before taking flight themselves.
"They learned about gravity and velocity and how wind can make you go up and down and max and how it all goes together," said Weaver.
"This was amazing, it was really fun to fly," Koehn remarked.
"It's one thing to read it in a text book but then to come out and see it and actually do it and experience it and feel it and so this is something they will never forget," Weaver said.
Oklahoma is a recipient of a four million dollar a year grant available to schools to help increase access to elementary science and stem activities.