Fostering Your Child's Love for Science Could 'STEM' the Tide of Job Shortages

Brandpoint  |  2016-02-18

Finalists of the Young Scientist Challenge solve a problem through science.

(BPT) - Middle school is a make-or-break time for budding scientists.

The subject matter gets more difficult, test anxiety often occurs and other interests emerge. U.S. students rank 27th in math and 20th in science out of 34 countries scored, according to the latest research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That lagging interest in STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - is contributing to an ongoing U.S. shortage of highly-skilled workers that may reach 3 million by 2018.

3M, a company rooted in science, understands the need for the next generation of science innovators, inventors and leaders. For decades, 3M scientists and engineers have developed products that solve problems and improve lives. A shortage of STEM-savvy workers will slow innovation across all industries.

If your child has a passion for science, encourage their curiosity. Here are some ideas from 3M science experts on how to further foster a love of science:

1. Find an after school program or STEM mentor.

A high-quality STEM after school program leads to improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers; increased STEM knowledge and skills; and higher likelihood of pursuing a STEM major in college according to a study from the Afterschool Alliance. Another option is to find a mentor. Teachers, college students and working professionals are often eager to share their knowledge with budding young scientists. Many universities and businesses encourage mentorship, and your school's science teachers might have some suggestions on where to find one that's right for your child.

2. Plan at home experiments.

According to 3M science mentors, taking science out of a book and applying it to real life is one of the best ways to spark an interest in science. You can find plenty of science experiments to conduct inside your home. A great resource is www.scienceofeverydaylife.com, which features fun activities that explain science principles, like how solar energy works by cooking a pizza with the sun or how chemical reactions function by making homemade ice cream.

3. Encourage exploration.

As interest grows, students are eager for more challenges. For instance, with the Summer Olympics on the horizon this year, a sport-loving student may want to explore more about the forces that impact gold medal-quality swimming, running or cycling. Linking science to another interest can further their passion.

4. Give them a challenge.

A range of opportunities exist for interested students at science-based summer camps, after school programs or fairs. If your child is already on a path of science experimentation and innovation, consider encouraging him or her to enter science challenges and competitions. Each year 3M and Discovery Education partner to develop the Young Scientist Challenge. Students in grades 5-8 can enter the contest by creating a one to two-minute video on a proposed solution to solve an everyday problem. All video entries must be submitted online at www.youngscientistchallenge.com by April 20, 2016.

5. Hit the road.

Going to an observatory or space museum is fun, but also a major learning opportunity. Before taking the trip, view the destination's website with your child and identify areas of particular interest. That will build anticipation and really amplify the visit.

Over its nine years of involvement in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, 3M has seen the tremendous impact a parent, family member or mentor can make in a child's curiosity and confidence in science. That foundation yields strong critical thinking skills and opens the door for rewarding career opportunities with lasting benefits.

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Farid Shatara of Carmichael has been recognized for academic achievement at Indiana State University. The senior insurance and risk management major received dean’s list honors for the fall semester of 2015. To be eligible for the dean’s list, students must maintain a 3.5 grade point average or higher on a 4.0 scale.

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Your Four-Step Plan to Changing Careers and Becoming a Teacher

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-19

(BPT) - What's your goal for 2016? Do you want to lose weight, learn a new skill or quit smoking? Perhaps you've decided to set goals around your career instead. Earning more money or getting promoted are common pursuits, but what if your goal is bigger than just moving up in your current career? What if your goal is to change tracks entirely? What if 2016 were the year you decided to follow your ambition and become a teacher? It's possible, and now's the perfect time to pursue the role you've always wanted. If you're sick of heading to work feeling uninspired and you're ready to embrace the challenges and rewards of teaching, these four steps can help you make a successful career transition into teaching today.

Change your priorities

Many people want to change jobs, but that desire is often overshadowed by concerns about how much money they'll earn, how they'll be seen by family and friends or their fears of trying something new. To change your career, you need to change your priorities. Make pursuing your passion your number one objective and everything else will fall into place.

Seek expert knowledge

If you're going to make a career change, you want to do it right, and that means learning from the best in the business. For example, if you want to teach, the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Western Governors University's (WGU) secondary teacher prep program as the top program in the nation in terms of quality from a list of 2,400 programs. The school is the top producer of STEM teachers in the nation, making it an ideal destination for STEM professionals interested in inspiring the next generation in these important fields. To be your best you need to learn from the best so focus on what you want to do and start researching who does it better than anyone else.

Smart networking

Knowledge is essential and the right connections will make sure it doesn't go to waste. Connect with existing friends in your desired field or reach out and make new contacts through social media or conferences and join clubs that cater to what you want to do. For aspiring teachers that can include networking with principals and current teachers. Often these connections open up doors for student teaching opportunities which can lead to full-time employment following graduation. Above all, make sure you listen to those you meet instead of pushing your own agenda. Take in more business cards than you give out and you'll build contacts that will help you grow in your new profession.

Have faith in yourself

Changing careers can be nerve-wracking, but it's also exciting. This is your chance to do what you've always wanted to do so don't listen to those who tell you that you can't do it. Have faith in yourself, your research, your education and your decision and you won't regret your decision for a single moment once you're finally in the career you've always wanted.

To learn more about the programs available through WGU, visit WGU.edu.

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Honoring the Legacy of Mentorship

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-12

(BPT) - Growing up in Florida, Whitney Stewart never thought at any point in her life she would climb a mountain. That changed when she was 13 and took a trip with her local Boys & Girls Club to Colorado. At first she thought the mountains were just there to look upon, but then one of her Club staff members informed her she would be climbing one of those mountains.

“I was thinking, I’m a Florida girl, I don’t do mountains,” Stewart recalls.

Hours later, she was at the summit where she recalls a staff member telling her, “Today you climbed a mountain, if you can do that you can do anything.”

“That was said to me at one of my lowest points,” Stewart notes, “and I really took that to heart.”

Through the direction given to her by her Boys & Girls Club mentors, Stewart became a leader in both her school and community. Currently enrolled as a freshman at University of Pennsylvania, Stewart was recently given the honor of being named Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 2015-16 National Youth of the Year.

It’s hard to overestimate how much a mentor can impact a child’s life. Through guidance and a simple unwavering belief in young people, mentors can provide the guidance so many young people like Stewart need. In fact, a recent study showed that among Boys & Girls Clubs alumni, around two-thirds remember a specific staff member who made a positive impact on their lives.

With nearly 4 million school-aged kids in more than 4,100 Clubs across the country, Boys & Girls Clubs of America‘s vision is that through providing a safe place for kids to go during out-of-school hours, all its members will graduate from high school with a plan for the future that is built on good character, citizenship, leadership skills, academic success and a healthy lifestyle.

Today, it is estimated that one in every 16 Americans is a Boys & Girls Clubs alum. This has created a network of successful community leaders and professionals in every field, from lawyers and doctors to engineers, artists and entrepreneurs.

In an effort to draw on the collective strength of this large network of alumni, Boys & Girls Clubs’ Alumni & Friends Club has been established in order to give former members an opportunity to reconnect, work together and give back to kids and families in need.

It is estimated that there are more than 11 million kids in the United States who have no place to go after school. These kids lack simple, yet important things like safety and the guidance a mentor can provide. In response, thousands of alumni have taken the opportunity to help make a change by joining the Alumni & Friends Club. The goal of this alumni network is to keep former members connected and give them a way to foster hope and opportunity in a new generation.

To join your fellow Club alumni, visit www.bgcalum.org and learn how you too can impact a kid’s life forever.

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Making the Most of College Financial Aid: 7 Tips You Should Know

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-12

(BPT) - What do parents of toddlers and parents of high school students have in common? Both worry about paying for college. With the constantly rising costs of higher education, financial aid becomes more important than ever for making the dream of a college education possible. So if you’re interested in receiving financial aid, where should you start?

“The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is your gateway to money for college from both the federal and state governments for most colleges and universities,” says Mark Kantrowitz, author of “Filing the FAFSA” and “Secrets to Winning a Scholarship.” “Filing the FAFSA correctly is crucial, as it has a direct effect on how much money you receive from various types of financial aid.”

College Ave Student Loans partnered with Kantrowitz to offer top tips for maximizing your need-based financial aid for college:

1. Save strategically

When it comes to covering the cost of college, financial aid should be at the forefront of your mind, whether you’re ready to file the FAFSA right now or not. It’s best to save money for college in a parent’s name, rather than the student’s, as the FAFSA assesses money in the parent’s name at a much lower rate. Every $10,000 in student assets reduces aid eligibility by $2,000, while every $10,000 in parent assets only reduces eligibility by up to $564.

2. File early

The earlier you file the FAFSA, the better. Right now, you should file the FAFSA as soon as possible on or after Jan. 1, but starting in 2017, you can start as early as Oct. 1. Ten states award aid on a first come, first served basis, and 12 have hard deadlines in February and March. Specific schools can also have specific deadlines, and students who file early may qualify for more aid. So, as a rule of thumb, file the FAFSA in January to maximize your eligibility.

3. Minimize income in the base year

Using income and tax information from a previous year, or base year, the FAFSA calculates the financial strength of your family. Because the formula is heavily weighted on income, it’s a good idea to reduce your income in the base year. If you can, avoid realizing capital gains. If you must sell stocks, bonds or other investments, try to offset capital gains with losses. Taking retirement plan distributions during the base year will also count as income.

4. Reduce reportable assets

Minimize your money in the bank by using it to pay credit card and loan debts. This not only makes good financial planning sense, but may help you qualify for more aid.

5. Maximize the number of children in college at the same time

Something as simple as having more than one child in college can dramatically increase your changes of receiving more financial aid. While you can’t change the ages of your children, you can use this impact on aid eligibility as a deciding factor when determining whether to allow your child to skip a grade.

6. Seek generous and low-cost colleges

There are many generous colleges, including some in the Ivy League, which implement “no loans” financial aid policies. This means they replace loans with grants in the student’s need-based financial aid package. Additionally, in-state public colleges are likely to be your least expensive option, especially after subtracting gift aid, grants and scholarships.

7. Organize your documents and information

Filing the FAFSA is all about the details. Pay attention and stay organized to get the job done right, starting by filing the FAFSA for the correct year and staying on top of deadlines. Make sure to use the right Social Security Number, date or birth, marital status and correct financial information. Follow the instructions and fill out the forms as carefully as possible to get the most accurate results.

Once you receive your financial aid award letter and assess your savings, you’ll have time to consider taking out a loan. If you need it, find a simple option that works for you, such as College Ave Student Loans.

Navigating the world of financial aid can be tricky, so follow these tips to maximize your eligibility and make college a reality. For more information and resources, visit collegeavestudentloans.com.

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Maximize Study and Fun with Cost-Effective Technology for Your Student

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-07

(BPT) - Today’s youth are well-versed in transitioning their computers and phones from school to home, and futurists believe that will be even more necessary in coming years. Project Tomorrow’s recent Speak Up Data shares that “Students in a blended learning environment (utilizing both physical books and online digital resources) are more likely to self-direct their learning outside of school.”

The best tech device options allow your student to learn and play anytime, anywhere and in any environment. The critical items to consider are devices that allow full access to learning applications; nine-plus-hour batteries; keyboards; easy connectivity; a backpack-friendly weight; powerful browsers that allow for fast-loading videos; access to school assignments and research tools.

Cost-effective technology such as the Intel processor-powered Chromebook is being embraced by entire school districts for its fostering of streamlined education allowing faculty and IT administrators to communicate with students at school and at home. As a bonus, your student can also use a Chromebook to socialize with friends and engage in fun learning apps and popular gaming sites.

“This is a whole new definition of what school looks like,” notes Alice Keeler, author and Google for Education certified innovator. “Students can ask questions by posting to the stream in Google Classroom 24/7, (and) since other students have access to the stream, students are able to learn from and help each other.”

The ability to handle such multitasking is projected to serve youth well in the coming decades as technology evolves, according to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Institute. Fifty-five percent of respondents agreed that by 2020, “The environment itself will be full of data that can be retrieved almost effortlessly, and will be arrayed in ways to help people young and old navigate their lives.”

The Intel-powered Chromebook addresses that need for multitasking with several advantages over ARM process-based models. In a Principle Technologies Test Report last year, those advantages included a 57 percent longer battery life while web browsing; 46 percent less waiting to read a textbook or take notes online; 47 percent less waiting to do math homework online; 50 percent less waiting to create an English presentation; 46 percent less waiting to team up in science class; and 100 percent more frames per second while rendering an anatomy situation.

That’s partly why school district IT specialist and education speaker Kyle Pace calls it “the biggest no-brainer in education.”

“Schools must begin leveraging these tools to bring students into the world of working in the cloud, communicating, collaborating and creating on the web,” he advises. “We can’t afford not to give our students this type of access -- at school and at home.”

For more information on creating and collaborating with Chromebooks, check out Kyle Pace’s blog.

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(BPT) - Families who have children heading off to college are likely navigating an array of options when it comes to actually paying for higher education. A new white paper by Prudential Financial titled Paying For College: A Practical Guide for Families, seeks to dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding loans, grants, scholarships, and available tax benefits. If the bad news about financing a college education is that it can be complex and time-consuming, the good news is that families willing to educate themselves on the process (and familiarize themselves with the potential pitfalls) can develop a strategy that does not break the bank for students or the parents.

“It can be a daunting process, but well worth the effort, especially if it means avoiding large amounts of debt or not dipping into retirement savings ” said Caroline Feeney, President, Prudential Advisors. “If it seems too intimidating, don’t be afraid to seek guidance because there is a good chance you’ll be able to put the right payment strategy in place that works for your family.”

Creating a Plan that Fits Your Family

While earning a college degree is certainly a worthwhile pursuit, the skyrocketing costs of college tuition can leave many students laden with burdensome levels of debt. Parents can also struggle, often sacrificing retirement savings to help their children.

According to Feeney, “We urge families to tap in to school resources, guidance and financial aid counselors, as well as the experience of a financial professional who can help them make critical decisions with respect to leveraging existing financial resources in a way that helps protect longer-term financial security.”

The report provides a roadmap for financing a college education. It provides basic, foundational information about qualifying for undergraduate financial aid, taking out public and private education loans, and taking advantage of potential tax deductions and credits. It also offers targeted advice for single, as well as divorced parents.

Seeking Aid: Knowledge is Power

One of the primary goals when researching college payment options is identifying all of the sources that do not result in long-term debt. For families who lack the resources to save in advance or to fund that education on a pay-as-you-go basis, seeking all types of financial aid is essential. Some considerations include:

  • Becoming familiar with the application deadline and requirements for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) https://fafsa.ed.gov/.

  • Learning the pros and cons of aid sources available, including grants, scholarships, work-study programs, tax credits, and tax deductions.

  • Researching the variables that affect a student’s access to financial aid, including choice of school, how much and in what form the family has saved for college, and how adept the family is at working through the process of applying for help.

Once they do their homework, families may be surprised to learn about more effective ways to qualify for grants and scholarships, and if student loans must be taken out, how to navigate the new repayment options that have become available.

Divorced and single parents also have special provisions available to them that are worth looking into.

“Every family has unique circumstances to consider. Investing time with a financial professional who can help guide them through resource planning can help alleviate some of the stress associated with understanding the process and making sure that the family’s finances are well handled,” said Feeney.

To learn more, visit www.prudential.com/payingforcollege.

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