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Trends in STEM

How to Construct a Robust STEM Pipeline

First conceived in the 1970s as a way to visualize the path a student takes from elementary and middle school to a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the STEM pipeline represents one of the clearest ways for educators and policymakers to chart and identify reasons why children might lose interest in these fields over time.

In this way, concerns including STEM anxiety and misconception, and a lack of diversity within these fields, are represented as “gaps” in the STEM pipeline.

To learn more about these concepts and to find out how one educator developed a STEM pipeline for her school district, we invite you to read an excerpt from our white paper, “How to Address Gaps and Build a Strong STEM Pipeline.”


Promoting Lifelong STEM Learning

Christine Girtain, director of authentic science research at Toms River High School North and Toms River High School South in New Jersey, has developed an effective K-12 STEM pipeline for her district by using the Camp Invention® program as its foundation.

Camp Invention is the flagship summer STEM program from the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, which has provided transformative hands-on learning experiences to K-6 students across the country since 1990.

In an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Girtain, the 2022-23 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year, described how her own children’s positive experience with Camp Invention inspired her to nurture and cultivate interest in STEM among her district’s students.

“In the fall of 2014, I was looking for an engaging summer program for my daughter who was in fifth grade and for my son who was in second,” Girtain said. “That’s when I came across Camp Invention and decided to bring it to my school and be the Director for our program. The first year we had 105 kids and because it attracted kids from other school districts, eventually Camp Invention spread to several other districts in my county.”

As Girtain continued to direct her district’s Camp Invention, the children who attended her camp grew and progressed through elementary school. Along the way, she let children know about her high school-level research class and how she would love for them to one day become her students.

At the same time, Girtain began developing a connection with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a lab in Huntington, New York, that offers DNA Learning Center camps for students in middle school through college. Through this relationship, she was able to create her own summer camp program using similar lab techniques.

Over the years, Girtain continued to raise money and partner with sponsors like the U.S. Navy NJEA, Sustainable Jersey for Schools and MiniOne to offer a variety of science-themed camps including an Intro to Biotech camp and World of Enzymes camp for grades 6-9, and BioCoding and DNA BarCoding for high school students.

To her great delight, in her high school research class, Girtain began recognizing students she had first met at Camp Invention, who had succeeded in maintaining their passion and excitement for STEM.

This culminated in a special moment in 2022, when a former Camp Invention camper, Bisola Fasakin, who had become a sophomore from Girtain’s research class, spoke at a ceremony commemorating her State Teacher of the Year Award.

“I’ve known Mrs. Girtain since I arrived in this country and I couldn’t wait until I could attend her research class,” said Fasakin. “I can’t remember a time when she hasn’t been in my life.”

Girtain shared, “I was super proud of that moment because of the relationship I built with Bisola over the years – through Camp Invention and the middle school camps. She is now looking into gel electrophoresis and plans to do something with genetics for her research project.”

Though she did not originally set out to create a K-12 STEM pipeline in her district, Girtain’s gift of building connections, her desire to give her students the best chance to succeed and her commitment to education combined to form an encouraging pathway for students to foster their interests in STEM.

When asked why Girtain has continued to use Camp Invention as the base of her STEM pipeline for the past seven years, she explained that the consistent quality and evolution of the curricula keep her and her colleagues coming back year after year.

“The curriculum is amazing. Every year when you think it can’t get any better, it does,” Girtain said.

Additionally, she appreciates how receptive the National Inventors Hall of Fame is to feedback and ideas for improvement.

“I love that NIHF listens to teachers. Over the years, when they get feedback from us, I saw it being implemented the next year,” Girtain said.


Read the Full White Paper Today

To learn more about constructing a robust STEM pipeline for your students, download our free white paper.

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