- Roughly 20% of students in the United States live in rural school districts where access to STEM resources are harder to come by because of funding issues, technology gaps, lack of nearby resources, cultural challenges and STEM teacher shortages, District Administration reports.
- Rural superintendents are using several strategies to increase STEM access, including seeking grant opportunities and forming partnerships with colleges, businesses and community groups.
- Technology is also paving the way to better access as students can learn remotely from teachers in other areas and can access new resources from the government, higher ed and other organizations.
Rural schools often face greater challenges in providing strong STEM education. They are often in smaller school districts or those that face declining enrollment. In addition, they often face issues with Internet service which can limit access for students at home, though a number of states are working to close that gap. Finding quality STEM teachers is also a challenge, since many specialists aren't attracted to rural districts that often pay less, an issue that can sometimes be handled with technology that allows these educators to teach via virtual conferencing.
A number of grant opportunities are also available for rural schools. The National Math + Science Initiative offers some resources for schools and educators, while The Museum of Science in Boston has a full range of engineering resources for student in Pre-K to high school, and NASA also offers a number of STEM resources free of charge to schools.
Forming partnerships to provide STEM education is also a good idea. Many colleges and universities are open to doing so because they can connect with potential students, and businesses are seeing increasing value in these partnerships in helping create the workplace of the future. STEM Ecosystems are one way these partnerships are being formed. Through hard work and creativity, rural schools can have access to better STEM options than in the past.