Senator John Hoeven this week joined the Senate in passing the Building Blocks of STEM Act, bipartisan legislation he cosponsored to encourage participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education among Pre-K and elementary-aged children. Currently, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) initiatives focus on middle-school aged children and older students. The bill would expand the NSF’s STEM initiatives to younger students, helping establish a greater interest in these fields earlier in their lives and making it more likely that they will pursue such careers.

“This bill is part of our broader efforts to expand STEM education and ensure our students have the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the economy of the future,” said Hoeven. “Our legislation directs the NSF’s existing programs to focus more on early childhood, which has been shown to help to spur kids’ interest in these fields. This is all about setting up our students for success and making sure our nation remains on the cutting edge of technological development.”

Specifically, the bill would:

  • More equitably allocate funding in the NSF’s existing Discovery Research PreK-12 program to focus on early childhood.
  • Award research grants to determine factors that contribute to young girls’ willingness or unwillingness to pursue STEM activities.
  • Award grants to develop and evaluate interventions in Pre-K and elementary school classrooms to increase girl’s participation in computer science, such as providing mentors for girls, exposing them to careers and developing science curriculum with respect to gender inclusion, among other things.