As a former teacher and creator of STEM programming, I know that one of the top benefits of STEM education is that it can be seen everywhere. Whether you’re in a classroom, in your backyard, or across the globe (on an educational tour, of course), STEM plays an important role in so many aspects of day-to-day life.
Not only is it important to understand the importance of STEM, but it’s necessary to acknowledge the value of project-based learning that goes beyond theory. Because real-life experiences translate to real-life skills.
Here are my recommendations for the best places to travel to for impactful STEM learning.
From tropical forests to mangroves to freshwater wetlands, Panama has some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Preserving the biodiversity in Panama is so important there’s even a museum called the BioMuseo dedicated to exactly that.
If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience to help students learn about environmental science, make the trek to Galeta Point. There, you’ll join scientists and researchers at a tropical research center to learn about their work with coastal ecosystems. With EF, you’ll even have the chance to participate in fieldwork where you’ll conduct a transect of a mangrove forest to collect data and make observations about the current status of that section of the mangrove.
When people think of New York, they might associate it with its vibrant art and theater scene, but there’s plenty to do in the Big Apple that has to do with STEM. You can visit the New York Transit Museum (which collects and preserves materials from New York’s public transit system), the Museum of Mathematics (which encourages exploration through math exhibits), and the New York Hall of Science (a center for interactive STEM learning).
If you’re in New York, I recommend you take a tram ride to Roosevelt Island, where you can tour Cornell Tech: a brand-new innovation and research campus designed specifically for the entrepreneurs of the digital age. Through EF’s partnership with Cornell Tech, you can participate in a design-thinking workshop where your students will create a 3-D prototype to solve a specific issue.
From its high-speed bullet trains to Akihabara Electric Town to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), visiting Japan is like stepping into the future.
There are endless things to discover and experience in Japan, but one must-see spot for STEM learning is Cyberdyne Studios: a facility for advanced robotic technologies. At Cyberdyne Studios, you’ll be able to learn about and interact with Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) technology—and if you travel with EF, your students might even get the chance to test out the arm portion of a working HAL suit!
Home of Silicon Valley, San Francisco is known as a technology hub, but tech is not the only STEM field you’ll find there. From Redwood National Park, to the Exploratorium, to the Marine Mammal Center, San Francisco has a lot to offer in terms of science.
My favorite must-see attraction in San Francisco though is the California Academy of Sciences (CAS). With a mission to preserve life while providing environmental education, you can experience an aquarium that houses nearly 40,000 animals, a four-story rainforest, and a living oasis on the museum’s roof.
If London is on your bucket list, you probably have some must-see sites in mind, like Big Ben or the Tower of London—but the city also offers plenty of attractions that show the benefits of STEM education. Make a hypothesis on how Stonehenge came to be (it’s unsolved to this day) or explore the Royal Observatory, where you can stand on the Prime Meridian and see astrological attractions including a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite.
I personally recommend a visit to Bletchley Park, the place where code breakers deciphered secret Nazi messages during World War II. At Bletchley Park, you can join a workshop where you can try your hand at cracking codes.
Boston absolutely values and promotes the benefits of STEM education. After all, it’s home to some of the most advanced STEM schools in the country—like Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In addition to these prestigious universities, Boston offers plenty of other STEM-related experiences like the Museum of Science (which contains the interactive “Hall of Human Life”) and Boda Borg, a puzzle-solving experience.
Not far from Boston is the FIRST Robotics headquarters. FIRST Robotics is the world’s leading youth-serving nonprofit aimed at advancing STEM education. Through EF’s partnership with FIRST Robotics, students get the exclusive opportunity to learn how to code in order to make their robot solve a given challenge.
My knowledgeable STEM team at EF has curated entire collections of itineraries designed to spark ideas for students of all ages. Discover the rest of our international STEM tours, or stay local with these North American STEM tours.
Editor’s note (2021): This piece has been updated for clarity, accuracy, and relevance.