It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in the world of STEM, but how do we bridge the gender gap and engage more female youth in becoming future Scientistas? Here are some ideas and tips which are practical, fun, and enriching.
Contrary to Popular Belief
The world of STEM is primarily populated by males, and according to some studies, our cultural stereotypes are the biggest contributing factor. By as early as first grade, girls typically believe they are less suited to intellectual pursuits than boys. STEM-oriented studies and pastimes are seen as too challenging for females, and they are also seen as primarily attractive to people who are socially inept and “nerdy.” Helping young girls and women to see their abilities as flexible, adaptable, and able to change and grow is an important aspect of encouraging them to participate in STEM. Additionally, there is a pervading myth that you must be naturally gifted in mathematics to participate in other aspects of STEM, making a large segment of girls and women feel inadequate for STEM careers. Forbes points out that with hands-on learning, you can inspire girls to feel more comfortable and confident in their studies, even when math isn’t their forte. With those concerns in mind, you can use lesson plan ideas, tips, and tools to spark interest and build a solid foundation for future Scientistas.
Real and Relevant
Look for opportunities to find avenues of engagement young girls and women can relate to their interests. For instance, some girls love home design and putting rooms together, and you can tap into that with relevant and interesting teaching material such as lesson plans based on real estate. Kids can learn to design and decorate their own homes, using mathematics and geometry for drawing to scale, figuring how much paint they need for walls, and deciding what size furniture pieces fit into rooms. Take the lessons up a notch by teaching about market comparisons, values, and profit margins. Girls who love space could contemplate building housing on other planets, comparing topography, and weighing potential materials and costs. Through creative application, you can make virtually any lesson relatable.
Stirring Up Fun
For girls who like to play in the kitchen, baking offers a number of opportunities for STEM lessons. Measuring, critical thinking, chemical reactions, and problem-solving are all real-life, hands-on takeaways girls can reap while in the process of putting together fun foods. Girls can learn about fractions, comparisons, estimation versus calculation, structural principles, and measuring, all with visual aids.
Integration Is a Bridge
One way to encourage girls who are uncomfortable with or disinterested in STEM is to segue learning through projects in other subjects which partner with STEM principles. You can use teaching tools based in creative arts, language arts, or social studies. For instance, girls who love history could write an app to teach fellow students about an event they find especially interesting. Mommy Poppins offers a list of free websites where kids can learn computer programming in terms they understand.
Planting and growing a garden is a great way to teach girls STEM principles. From planting to harvesting, girls can learn about observation, chemical reactions, data collection, and much more. You can incorporate information about the environment, economic principles, and introduce them to farm-to-table concepts. You can further their understanding of sustainability, budgeting their costs, calculating profits, transporting goods to the farmers market or grocery, and selling produce to restaurants and consumers. Consider adding field trips so girls can meet people who work directly with growing produce, keeping things real and relatable. There are potential lessons in everything from soil composition to botany to digestion.
Teaching tools and activities are vital for inspiring young girls and women toward careers in STEM. Look for opportunities to keep learning hands-on and relevant in order to build confidence and comfort levels. By framing things in a manner that is encouraging and interesting, woman can continue to be increasingly represented in STEM fields.
Jasmine Dyoco loves crossword puzzles, audio books, and fencing. She is passionate about learning (anything and everything!) She works with Educatorlabs to curate scholastic information.