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Let’s encourage more girls to play and learn in STEM

girl-scienceEncouraging and attracting girls into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) areas of study and employment has become a growing challenge for parents, educators, and businesses. For example, the US National Science Foundation reports that women now make up only 16% of those pursuing computer science degrees, which is a sharp decline from 40% in the 1980’s.

If we adults in North America want to improve our standard of living, we must motivate more girls to study the sciences in high school and pursue STEM pathways in college and universities. Growth in the number of jobs in technology has tripled that of jobs in the non-STEM sector and will continue to grow.

Bringing more women into these fields would expand the workforce and bring a new dimension to challenges. Women and men think differently. It is frequently said that a project or a problem needs “fresh eyes” so it seems to me different points of view could be acquired by hiring more women for the STEM careers.

Parents, educators and businesses can introduce young girls to the wondrous possibilities for them in these STEM fields. The qualities needed are: curiosity, persistence, and creative thought — the same qualities needed to solve puzzles and problems.

How can we introduce and motivate girls to science?

Expose young girls to hands-on STEM activities via construction toys, natural science kits, and number games. Introduce them to parents, relatives, or friends in STEM fields. Visit science museums to see first-hand how exciting these fields can be. Participation in hands-on experiences makes these subjects and ideas more personally credible.

Encourage girls to start thinking of their future. Ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Girls who:

  • believe they can solve problems
  • believe they can overcome obstacles
  • consider themselves hard workers
  • believe overcoming obstacles makes them stronger
  • feel that whatever boys can do girls can do
  • look for challenges
  • believe “if I work hard, I’ll succeed

are girls well suited to STEM careers.

Encouraging youth into STEM courses and careers starts in infancy for some families.

March-MegsBooks-postSTEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math, coined by the United State’s National Science Foundation in the 1990’s. More recently, educators have been seeking ways to increase the number of young people, and especially girls, studying STEM subjects, and embarking on STEM careers.

Parents are promoting STEM to their children too, some starting in infancy. Pennsylvania software engineer and mom Kelly Mathews is starting her daughter’s awareness of science, technology, engineering, and math before she’s even had her first birthday.

Kelly reads Rosie Revere, Engineer and HTML for Babies to her nine month old daughter, to introduce her to STEM subjects, and empower her to explore these areas as she grows.

How can we interest young people, and especially girls to embrace STEM subjects? Expose them to science, technology, engineering and math concepts from an early age, and read to them! I found it interesting that while Kelly Mathew’s masters degree is in computer science, her bachelor’s degree is in English literature!

Kelly is also working towards bridging the gender gap in STEM areas by working with a non-profit group in Pennsylvania, called TechGirlz, who work with girls in middle-schools.

As a children’s author of historical fiction (and teacher to the core) I write stories about truly heroic scientists, from the point of view of Lexi Catt, a lively feline who has spent his nine lives living with scientists throughout history. In honour of Women’s History Month, and the desire to promote STEM to young people, I invite you to share Lexi’s tale of his life with Marie Curie. Marie Curie was a STEM pioneer, winning two Nobel Prizes, and saving more than a million lives and limbs in World War I.

Associate Professor of Law and Director, Centre for Feminist Legal Studies, University of British Columbia, Janine Benedet says, “This is a fascinating and unusual book for readers in intermediate grades. Lexi and Marie Curie introduces readers to the amazing story of scientist Marie Curie, whose isolation of radium, among other discoveries, led to her being awarded the Nobel Prize in both Physics and Chemistry. Shut out of much of the formal scientific academy, Marie forges her own path, one that paves the way for her daughters and for generations of girls and women whose curiosity is sparked by ‘STEM’ — science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Meg