While women have made significant strides in higher learning and representation in the workforce over last few decades, disparity in STEM fields remains: only 24% of workers in STEM are women. Teachers today can and should encourage a love of science among the young women in their classrooms on all days—not just Day of the Girl, which falls on October 11. Here are some ways that you can instill a love of STEM in the brightest young girls in your class.
Highlight Accomplished Women in STEM
Representation is important for girls at young, impressionable ages. As the saying goes, “If she can see it, she can be it.” Most science and math curriculum only highlights the accomplishments of male leaders in those fields—alienating girls into thinking that they aren’t capable of also being trailblazers. Studies have shown that female and male students perform equally well on standardized tests in math and science. Teachers should consider working lessons into their curriculum that highlight the female pioneers in STEM history such as Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, or Ada Lovelace (among hundreds of others to choose from). These lessons could then in turn inspire more girls to follow similar footsteps.
Give Girls a Space to Experiment with STEM
After-school hours aren’t only for sports, gymnastics or piano practice—it can also be the perfect time for girls to experiment and explore different branches of science. A “Girls in STEM” club could give members the opportunity to become more familiar with STEM topics without classroom confines, exhibit more confidence, and learn skills in a judgment-free zone. The club focus could also be scaled, depending upon the member’s involvement and interest, from general STEM lessons to specific disciplines like robotics or chemistry. After-school time could offer young girls who have expressed a tentative interest in STEM in the classroom a chance to really spread their wings.
These 2017 ExploraVision winners from Oregon devised a way to make safer lithium-ion batteries
Encourage Participation in Science Competitions
One of the best ways to solidify a young girl’s success in STEM—and encourage her to reach for even bigger future goals—is to give her a chance to gain the recognition of her peers across the country (or even the globe) through science competitions. Our ExploraVision competition offers an equal platform for all students to showcase their innovations in STEM fields. Teachers of all-female or mixed-gender ExploraVision teams find it’s an especially great way for young women to practice leadership and teamwork skills through project-based learning.
Through exposure to female role models, time and freedom to explore STEM, and enrollment in scientific competition like ExploraVision, the young girls of today are primed to make their mark on STEM tomorrow!
Interested in participating in the ExploraVision competition with your students? Check out our PBL Tips for Teachers page for downloadable PDFs that apply to grades K-12 and register today! All ExploraVision projects are due by February 8, 2017.