STEM Girls

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My aunt posted this article, Why Girls Need Stem and Why Stem Needs Girls to her FB. I was intrigued. I knew I was going to write about this so I saved the link in my drafts. A week or so later I was watching TV.

Do you remember that show with Corey and Topanga- Boy meets world? Well, they made a sequel to it. Corey and Topanga grew up, got married and had two kids. One is a teenage girl. Hence, it’s called Girl Meets World.

I found myself watching an episode of it (again) the other night. It was my sign that it was time to write.

In this episode titled Girl Meets STEM (see the theme, now), Riley takes a stand when she notices that it’s just the boys who conduct the science experiments. The central problem of this episode revolves around the fact that the female characters were at the age when most girls start dropping out of STEM classes.

Science
Technology
Engineering
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These are the areas where the greatest developments occur. Marie Curie and her
radioactivity research. Sally Ride, the first woman in space. Antonia Coello Novello, the first female Surgeon General of the United States. Kari Byron, a co-host of Mythbusters. Ms. Frizzle.

Okay, so that next to last one doesn’t have the staggering STEM resume the others do. But, she is in the field of science working to make science exciting for teens. And the last one isn’t real. Still, I think girls appreciate the show just as much as the boys do.

The first article reports that about 10-30% of STEM occupations are female. A quick google search reveals very similar numbers for the number of males in the teaching profession between elementary and high school.

Why this odd imbalance? Historically speaking, that’s the way it’s always been. This is the 21st century. It doesn’t have to be like that any more. Women have proven over and over again, they are just as capable as men.

We need to rethink how we treat the girls in these classes when they are still young. Stop gender stereotyping and allow kids to explore, engineer, build, study, think whatever it is they can dream up. I’m certainly not saying take away their dolls – that how they learn to be mothers (just as our boys have Sweet Baby to practice caring for to be good dads). I’m saying give them that which they can discover and reinvent the world. Building blocks. Science kits. Solar powered robots. Lego is for everyone!

Allow them to explore the world and the world will be theirs.

Do with boys, too. They love it just as much.

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45 thoughts on “STEM Girls

  1. Too true….girls are so often put in a slot of mother/homemaker/teacher/nurse/secretary. A lot of women are very good at these things….but someone like Marie Curie was obviously made to be a scientist.
    There is a double standard at work for the boys, too, because little boys who like playing with dolls or dress-up aren’t learning anything “unmasculine”; in fact, it’s not only helping their social skills and fine motor growth, it’s also showing them the value of sharing with others (even if the other is a doll), and teaching them important life skills — like how to dress oneself!
    As a woman who was never very good at math, science, etc., I never tried to get more involved in those areas…but for girls who get excited about mechanical things and science experiments, I’ve always said, go for it. It should be about an individual’s talents and predisposition, not gender, ever.

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    • Good point about the boys. No need for two standards when one is sufficient. We’ve been telling kids they can be anything they want to be. Except girls. Girls are homemakers, secretaries, cashiers, teachers, etc… If we’re going to say “Be anything you want to be” we need to stand by our word and let them, guide them even, to be what they dream of being.

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  2. I was just reading an article where a neuroscientist at Temple University was saying that the adolescent mind is primed for learning, but high schools in the US are boring the kids and failing to take advantage of the plasticity of the adolescent brain. (http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/neuroscientist-us-high-schools-are-too-boring-students) I worry that too many kids, boys and girls alike, are picking up “the way it’s always been” from the very education system that should be preparing them for greatness, and that rather than being encouraged to explore and experiment and expand their minds, they’re being prepared for standardized tests.

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    • Interesting article, John. I like how they specified that amount of work does not equal challenging work. Teachers have been saying for years that standardized tests don’t work. We are required to differentiate our instruction but standardize our tests.

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  3. Eric, keep this stuff coming. We talk to our girls about this all of the time. They got snap circuits for Christmas/Chanukah (Chanamas) and love to watch how they can create light, power, energy. The school they go to has NO GENDER roles or stereotypes–it is a progressive education that we chose for them becuase of this big, bad, uneven world we occupy. STEM! Shout it from the rooftops. And, oh BTW, we need to solve for that .76 cents on the dollar thing too.
    I am up for the challenge and see you are too! TY!

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    • That .76 cents on the dollar is ridiculous. Canada is sitting on massive amounts of oil. Unfortunately, it’s in really hard to get to places. While I’d LOVE to see the world move away from oil/gas/coal energy of the 18/1900s oil is where the $$ currently is. That’s for another post, I think 🙂
      Good for you for opening the horizons for your girls. I’m not sure schools intentionally stereotype of if it just happens. I’m going to have to look up WHY girls tend to lose interest in STEM subjects as they get older. But, looking at universities, where people are allowed to freely chose their major the boys tend to go one way while the girls go the other. In my education classes, there were 5 guys in a class of 60.

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  4. Great post, Eric. As the father of a girl, I completely agree. I want to encourage my daughter to study sciences all the way through high school. It’ll give her a broader field of subjects to study in university. I won’t be upset if she doesn’t take science or technology in university, but I at least want her to be scientifically literate. I will take her out to use a telescope often (once I have one), take her to science museums, take her to the zoo and aquarium, and more. She already shows a logical mind. She loves building things with lego, and she usually makes them symmetrical. She’s amazing at puzzles, putting together puzzles that are for kids 3 to 4 years older than her. She loves cars, trains, and airplanes. She tends to be curious about everything.

    I want to see more girls studying science and going into science and engineering careers. It’ll be far better for society, I think.

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    • You’re a science guy, so I have no doubt she’ll be a science gal 🙂 My boys love the telescope, though we haven’t had it out for ages. But on the flip side, the have a doll they love to care for. His name is “Sweet Baby” and it gets pushed in the stroller and wrapped in blankets. Just as schools need more male teachers, the STEM professions need more females.

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    • Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! Being a conservationist would be fun 🙂 My 8 year changes his mind on a daily basis. Sometimes he wants to be an astronaut and go to space (he mentioned going to Mars once). Sometimes he wants to be a mechanic or a teacher or a gamer. It’s fun to hear what they come up with 🙂 Boy Meets World was a pretty good show! Girl Meets World is just as interesting.

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  5. Absolutely! Girls can do anything! Anything! & Vice versa – Today Ethan wanted a magazine in the supermarket. He looked through the pile and saw that there was only Frozen magazine. He looked up to me and said “Mummy, there isn’t a boy magazine here.” It is really up to you Ethan – perhaps you can have a look at the counter if there is any other magazine. Then we went to the counter and saw a dinosaur colouring book. I asked him if he want it – he said yes. So at the check out as I was scanning our shopping items – Ethan scanned in the Frozen Magazine in. I was a little puzzled as I thought he didn’t want it. I asked him again which is it does he want was we can only afford one. He chose the Frozen magazine. So I got him the Frozen magazine without questioning him. I think it is great that he is able to enjoy something else other than dinosaur all the time. Thank you for linking up with us. Great Post! #FabFridayPost 🙂

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