Elementary student perceptions of STEM
Many students from groups underrepresented in STEM, including girls and minority populations, internalize messages that they cannot or will not succeed in STEM as early as elementary school or middle school. Opportunities to engage in STEM outside of school may be especially important for these populations. These opportunities can provide mentors, role models, and activities that spark interest and meaningful connections to STEM (1).

Elementary school teacher preparation in STEM
K-12 teachers who are well-equipped to support STEM learning and recognize talent in these areas are critical to closing STEM achievement gaps and bolstering the future workforce. However, many students are taught math and science by a teacher without a major or certification in that area. Although requirements are increasing, a recent survey of university teacher preparation programs found that on average elementary teachers were required to take only two mathematics classes (2). While elementary teachers tend to be generalists, they can face constraints in supporting STEM learning related to insufficient equipment and supplies, support in teaching STEM, and confidence or knowledge in these areas. 

References:

1. President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. (2010). Report to the President, Prepare and inspire: K-12 education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for America's future. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-stemed-report.pdf

2. Committee on the Study of Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States, National Research Council. (2010). Preparing teachers: Building evidence for sound policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Additional sources:

Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century: An Agenda for American Science and Technology, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine. (2007). Rising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. Retrieved from The National Academies Press website: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11463&page=1

National Science Foundation, National Science Board. (2010). Preparing the next generation of STEM innovators: Identifying and developing our nation's human capital (No. NSB-10-33). Retrieved from http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2010/nsb1033.pdf