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Subaru Loves Learning: Reminding Us Why STEM Education Matters

Students at Leib Elementary School, Dover, PA

Students who participated in the STEM Showdown at Leib Elementary School in Dover, Pennsylvania. Students competed in one of three STEM-related events in the area of aerodynamics, buoyancy and engineering.

AAAS and Subaru partner annually to host the Subaru Loves Learning initiative, which enables us to provide captivating and up-to-date science literature to schools in need. We do this by providing schools with science trade books that have been winners/or finalists of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. The award program, now in its 12th year, seeks to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality science books that engage readers across all age groups and leave them with a richer understanding of all corners of science.

Fortunately for us, this event also gives us the opportunity to connect with hundreds of schools across the country and hear from them about how science education is important to their students. Many schools have noted that the award aligns remarkably well with their recent efforts to expand their science curriculum or revamp their library’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) section. Schools have wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to further engage their students in science because, as Principal Sharon Petitte at Ridgedale Elementary in Morgantown, West Virginia, succinctly expressed, “STEM (and STEAM) is no longer the future of education—it is present.” We have been continuously impressed by the level of enthusiasm and initiative that schools have demonstrated towards science education, so we wanted to take a moment and celebrate the positive trends in the advancement of science that will enable our students of today to become the leaders and innovators of tomorrow.

In the face of an aging library collection of science books and limited resources available to make updates, Garfield Elementary School in Olympia, Washington, has expressed that it has been a challenge to provide up-to-date science resources for its students. The books in its non-fiction section are sixteen years old on average, and the library receives a slim $1,000 budget each year, equating to $2.32 per student in the school. However, when Garfield Elementary received its Subaru Loves Learning offer letter, Kathryn Beattie, the school’s librarian, knew exactly how to make the most of the science book donation.

Upon reviewing the book list, Beattie knew that Treecology, finalist in the Hands-On category for the 2017 SB&F Prize, would be a wildly popular book in the classroom. Fourth graders will use the book in their science unit on forests, and fifth grade teachers would be able to use its hands-on science activities during the fifth graders’ Outdoor School experience in Cispus, Washington. Beattie also highlighted that each grade at Garfield Elementary is in charge of a different garden bed, so teachers could lead lessons about plant growth and where food comes from by using the book Grow! Raise! Catch!, finalist in the Children's Picture Book category for the 2017 SB&F Prize, alongside their gardening activities. After carefully selecting each book with the intention of complementing the school’s curriculum, she expressed her excitement that the books donated by Subaru “will benefit teachers in the classroom but will also appeal to kids in the library.” Although Garfield Elementary has faced steep obstacles in the way of obtaining high-quality and current science books, its teachers and students undoubtedly have a large appetite for science and learning that we are excited to help fill.

Like Garfield Elementary, Forest View PK-3 Elementary School in Lansing, Michigan, will also use the Subaru Loves Learning donation to support its students’ outdoor educational experiences. Four years ago, Forest View School staff were looking for a way to further engage students in the school’s curriculum. When their brainstorming led the school to dedicate itself to becoming an Environmental Education focused school, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources adopted the Forest View School and offered training to all of its staff in the “Growing Up Wild” curriculum. Forest View has since developed a unique Outdoor Education program that not only deepens their students’ engagement in science, but also supports the learning of students with behavioral challenges. Through Subaru Loves Learning, the school will receive classroom sets of books on topics ranging from beetles and trees to fire ecology and exploring the depths of the sea, and we have the utmost confidence that students will take the content of these books with them into the outside world and use it to deepen their knowledge, as well as their curiosity.

Leib Elementary School in Dover, Pennsylvania, also places a large emphasis on its science curriculum, but uses a starkly different approach. Over the past three years, Leib Elementary has introduced students to STEM topics inside and outside of the classroom. At the inception of their STEM program, students participated in the school’s first ever STEM Showdown, where students practice problem-solving and teamwork skills and compete in STEM related events, such as aerodynamics, engineering, and machine mechanics. Since then, Leib Elementary’s STEM initiative has grown and evolved to incorporate more diverse and interdisciplinary opportunities for students. In its second year, the school added the Arts to make what is now a STEAM program, and the school’s art teacher has helped students learn how to produce blueprints and technical drawings. Students have learned about computer programming, the engineering design process, and environmental science topics, and they have participated triumphantly in a wide variety of STEAM competitions in areas from mathematics to environmentally-friendly engineering design. It is inspiring to partner with an elementary school with such a strong commitment to immersing its students in STEAM fields, especially as they become increasingly vital in our society, and its teachers and staff have expressed how excited they are to receive science literature resources that align so well with the school’s mission.

Working with these schools and hundreds of others from across the country makes us optimistic about the rising trends in science education. It is clear to us that schools are looking for ways help their students adapt to our changing world, where career opportunities are rapidly growing in the STEM fields. Fortunately, the Subaru Loves Learning initiative recognizes this need for greater student engagement in science. We have made sure to donate books that students will want to pick up and dive into, because not only is science increasingly important in today’s world, but with each new discovery and innovation, it is also more fascinating and enlightening than ever. Our objectives through the Subaru Loves Learning book donation are to enhance the learning opportunities that teachers create every day by providing captivating books with relatable messages and to fuel students’ excitement about the questions and answers that science seeks to find. When these books reach the hands of students this September, we hope that they will ignite new questions about the world and intensify students’ appetite for reading and thinking about science. Visit  Science NetLinks to see some of the great lessons and blog posts we have developed to enable teachers to bring these prize-winning books into the classroom.