Supporting STEM Teachers Developing the Next Generation of Leaders

Invent, design, engineer, build, create: these are the experiences that nearly 20,000 students across our region will be exposed to as a result of an SDG&E charitable giving initiative that supports local teachers and their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classroom projects.

In April, SDG&E partnered with DonorsChoose.org, an online platform for public school teachers to crowdfund projects for their classrooms. SDG&E matched, dollar for dollar, public donations to eligible classroom STEM projects in addition to providing a $2 to $1 match for schools in disadvantaged communities based on the CalEnviroScreen, which scores local communities according to environmental, health, and socioeconomic information. Fifty-six percent of the schools that received support from this initiative were in CalEnviroScreen communities, making public contributions to these teachers’ STEM programs even more impactful for local students in underserved communities. In as little as four months, SDG&E matched $100,000 in public donations, supporting more than 200 STEM teachers and 20,000 students in 135 schools.

SDG&E’s goal is to help develop the next generation of diverse innovators and leaders who will help our communities thrive and grow by developing solutions to address 21st century challenges.

Hands-on Learning that Stimulate the Mind

Ancient Greek philosopher Plato was credited with this insight: “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

That’s the kind of learning made possible by SDG&E’s STEM matching fund initiative. Through this initiative, for example, high school students at Sweetwater High in National City will have the chance to actively engage in learning with their new programmable drone kit and polyhedral dice to generate and select algorithms all in the name of STEM.

“For the majority of my students, this will be their first course in computing and I want them to be able to meet the challenges of the course with student-centered, collaborative activities that will allow them the greatest chance at success,” said teacher Sara Kazemi. “With these hands-on activities, my students will be able to better understand what is going on behind abstract code, and they will be able to stay actively engaged in their learning.”

Gardens of the Future

Another STEM project made possible by the SDG&E match is at Green Elementary School in San Diego. This one has an environmental focus.

The fourth and fifth graders at Green Elementary will get their hands dirty and keep their minds sharp with tools such as fencing and butterfly kits and seed and soil analyzers to actualize their plans for creating a healthy, organic, productive garden.

“I am striving to find a way to bring the students' creativity and love of the environment together in order to solve real world challenges,” said Amy Jackson, a teacher at the school. “I want them to experience the pride and accomplishment that comes when a plan they came up with from its very conception becomes real. I want them to know the potential of their ideas, no matter how far out of the box they seem.”

STEMists are environmental stewards too!

STEM Kits for Budding Engineers

 At Edison Elementary School, another San Diego Unified School District campus, students will get a back-to-school surprise with science and engineering kits, thanks to SDG&E’s match funding. These kits will give them hands-on experience to learn about their environment and how forces move objects.

“My students get so excited when they get to build and create on their own,” said Lillian Kepler-González, a Kindergarten teacher at the school. “With the materials in this project, they will now be able to learn even more about physical science. My students will be delighted when we set up the engineering stations in the classroom. I can't wait!”

Demand is Growing

Investments in STEM education are critical to communities that aspire to thrive and grow through careers in high-demand technology, science, mathematics and engineering industries. This is even more significant in providing STEM enrichment opportunities to inspire youth in underserved communities and women in STEM professions, generally. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations are expected to grow 30 percent by 2026. STEM-related jobs grew at three times the rate of non-STEM jobs between 2000 and 2010. By 2018, it is projected that 2.4 million STEM jobs will go unfilled.

Unfortunately, significant disparity persists in STEM fields among the diverse and underserved population. A study by the National Center for Education shows that master's degrees awarded to African-American (5.37%) and (3.29%) Hispanic students and the number of doctoral degrees awarded to African-American (2.36%) and Hispanic (2.14%) continue to be alarmingly disproportionate in the STEM disciplines.

Additionally, only three percent of the expected 1.4 million jobs available in the next four years will be filled by women. The solutions lie in a combination of efforts focusing on the entire pipeline from kindergarten to careers with emphasis on awareness, college and career prep.

SDG&E is proud to support our local teachers and schools through our partnership with DonorsChoose.org. Click here to read more about the compelling projects funded through this program.