STEM participation has traditionally been associated with men – most of us would be hard pressed to even name a female scientist! But times are changing, and the world is waking up to the fact that curiosity, research, and problem solving are not gender-bound characteristics. In the education sector, it’s important that we do everything we can to provide equal opportunities to our girls and work to smash the stigma of women in STEM fields.
Make it Accessible
Harness the natural curiosity children have by exposing them to STEM activities at an early age. Kids learn fast – take advantage of their sponge-like ability to soak up the world around them by using the resources listed below to teach all your boys and girls how to get started with coding, robotics, and math:
- Scratch is a programming language developed by MIT that makes it easy for children to create visual novels, animate characters, and even develop games.
- Ozobot is a fun way to encourage your students to get hands-on with coding – there’s even a screen-free option. Students can code their bots to move according to colors and draw paths for them to follow on a piece of paper.
- Apple’s Swift Playgrounds app is another great option for children of all ages to learn how to code through gamification. Apple even provides educators with implementation materials to help incorporate coding into the classroom.
- Endeavor is a digital learning resource that brings career exploration directly into your classroom through interactive activities. Teach your kids about everything from big data to algorithms through a gamified learning experience to make STEM learning fun.
- Future Goals: Hockey Scholar teaches math and science through their real life applications in hockey. The online resource is free and helps students develop critical skills through interactive sports games.
Give Them Role Models
When it seems like the whole world may be against them, remind your girls of what they can achieve. Talk to them everyday about women who stood up to the prejudices they faced and broke barriers in STEM:
- Katherine Johnson worked for NASA in the 1950s for 30 years. She is a mathematician and played a major role in the success of the first American manned spaceflight.
- Chien-Shiung Wu was a Chinese American physicist who made major contributions to nuclear research. She was also a part of the famous Manhattan Project.
- Hedy Lamarr was a famous actress and inventor from the early 1900s. While talented on screen, she invented a system using frequency hopping to improve torpedo-related communications in warfare, which later became the foundation of Wi-Fi, GPS, and bluetooth technologies.
- Adriana Ocampo is the Science Program Manager at NASA Headquarters. One of her major contributions was her research that led to the discovery of the Chicxulub impact crater – the impact that made that crater is the same impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and drastically altered the evolution of life on the Earth.
Show Them Their Community
Without a community of other women to lean on, women in STEM fields can feel defeated, unheard, and stigmatized. Provide your students with the resources they need by involving them in women-focused organizations who promote activity in STEM. There are tons of options, including Black Girls Code, National Girls Collaborative Project, Techbridge Girls, Women in Tech Fund, Ignite Worldwide, and Kal Academy.
With a community behind them, positive role models to inspire them, and all the resources they need to learn more, women in STEM fields will thrive. Breaking into STEM as a minority is hard work, but when things get tough, your girls have what it takes to succeed – and they always have.
Vanessa Baioni is a recent college graduate and a member of the K-12 Marketing team. In her spare time, Vanessa enjoys writing and photography.