Creating the Term STEM and STEM-based Curriculums

Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Jane Silverstein, Founder, STEM Academy at JFK High School, Paterson, NJ, to talk about how she coined the term “STEM” and created the first STEM-based curriculum.

11/12/2019 #2266






"This young lady, Jane Silverstein, founder of the STEM Academy at JFK High School in Paterson, New Jersey. Good to see you. Good to see you. As part of our initiative, Classroom Closeup feature that we do in cooperation with the New Jersey Education Association, is it not a fact, Jane, that you taught for 57 years, correct? Correct. Originally from Brooklyn. Retired in 2018. Yes. A year ago today or this week. Oh is that? Congratulations. The thing you love most about teaching? Kids. Is what? What about them? Kids. Just being with them. Teaching them. Having that little lightbulb go off in their eyeballs you know like, "oh yeah I got that." Now, you don't strike me as someone who has a very large ego, unlike the other person sitting here at this table with you. [laughter] But you, in fact, coined the acronym STEM? We think we invented it. It's you. Yeah. Where did it come from? And is it true that the other name would have been, or could have been, METS? M-E-T-S? Yes. Go head. Okay. By the way, we're about to show a video in a couple minutes. Go ahead. [laughter] We decided to make a program for science and math because the district was taken over by the state, and the state was doing reading. Everybody was a reading teacher. In Paterson? Everybody was a reading teacher. Even the people who weren't reading teachers. And the year that I made up my mind that we were going to do something, six kids. Six? Six. That's it. Were allowed to take science. And everybody else was reading. All day long. So we...I formed a committee and we started to work on it, and the acronym came from what we were doing, which was science and math and technology. Science, technology, engineering, and math is STEM? That's correct. So, what does METS come from? M-E-T-S? Math, engineering, technology, and science. And the reason. Just tell everyone. I don't know if this is in the video or not. Tell everyone why it didn't become METS, M-E-T-S, as opposed to STEM. Go ahead. Because our principal at the time was a Yankees fan. Of course. Of course. And, the principal, he or she? He. Said no way? He said, "No, I don't like that name." It was very nice. He was my former student. I mean. Oh. [laughter] Couldn't have been rude to me. The principal was your former student? Oh. everybody's my former student. How about this Jane? You ready to take a look at this? Yeah. We're going to see the video from Classroom Closeup. Okay. Check it out. Ah. [music] [birds chirp] If you compared science teachers to hall of fame baseball players, Jane Silverstein would be the Babe Ruth..."