History of CSTEM
One of this nation’s greatest economic and intellectual threats is that although Americans are highly supportive of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), their knowledge and understanding is limited. Experts in science communication encounter widespread public misunderstanding of how science and engineering work. The state of Kansas has had very public problems with the theory of evolution and climate change. Anti-science sentiment permeates not only public discussion but influences science education nationwide. Many people lack a firm understanding of the basic scientific facts and concepts that would allow them to apply this information to their daily lives. Moreover, surveys conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other organizations show minimal gains over time in the public's knowledge of science and the scientific method and suggest that belief in astrology and other forms of pseudo-science is widespread and growing. In mathematics, students regularly report that mathematics is “only something that you do in school” and has no application in their life.
In recognition of national challenges and local events, the University of Kansas Center for Science Education (CSE) was established in the Fall 2000. The Center sprang from a recommendation from a faculty Task Force on Science Education appointed by Chancellor Robert Hemenway. The CSE was founded as an interdisciplinary collaborative venture intended to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education across the university. While working locally, it was the intention to contribute to STEM and STEM Education scholarship on both a national and international level. From the beginning, CSE activities involved scientists, science educators and education specialists from many units across the university that included the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Engineering, the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Center for Research on Learning, and the Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Research Center. Reflecting the range, the span of disciplines, informal education and multiple levels of formal education the Center for Science Education became the Center for STEM Learning (CSTEM) in 2013.