STEM education provides many opportunities and challenges. How can our practice evolve to meet the needs of 21st-century learners?

How Do We Involve Girls In STEM?

Bonnie Bracey Sutton Teacher Agent of Change, Power of US Foundation

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Chemistry Student Teacher in Alaska

Making Science Obtainable

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Some students don't like science, but if we, as teachers, can make it interesting we can draw in some students, male or female, who would be interested in science. Another way is bringing in scientists from the community to share about what they do, especially female scientists. Showing young women that there is a spot on science for them is important.

FTC 4183 Robotics Team ICEBREAKERS all girls

Thanks George Lukas, our girls are grateful

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I read in Edutopia magazine the power of "project learning" and using lego mindstorms to make working robots. For one girl labeled Learning Disabled and another girl in science and math excelerated classes I knew I had to get these girls together. They had very different academic levels, confidence levels and their interest in learning and having goals for the future were also very different. In Edutopia, there was a picture of children "playing" with lego pieces, working together to make a project. I took my knowledge of George Lukas pushing kids learn 'on the job' and project oriented learning is vital for success, and I found out that Lego joined with FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) to form a fantastic STEM project / program called FLL First Lego League for kids in grades 4 - 8. I started an all girls team, initially funded by Girl Scouts and after finishing our 5th year, we succeeded and went to the World Finals in 2009 and 2011. We participated in Lego League (gr. 4-8) and 2 years in FTC First Tech Challenge grades 9-12. These girls had fun, learned to work as a team, collaborate, research a subject and like it, connected with many other kids on teams and matured through the years to talk to adults with confidence and knowledge. The life skills, the self esteem and exposure to what the world has to offer has made these girls have goals that they never would have had if they were only in a classroom environment K-12. I am reaching out to Long Island, NY to be the Liaison between children and these amazing programs like FIRST Robotics and reading the online version of Edutopia because it will empower all K-12 children to gain the insight and options that teachers don't have time to explain or show during the school day. Well I am thankful I found Edutopia and FIRST Robotics that I even submitted a Google Rise Award in Jan. 2012 to get money to add Star Wars Wii Games, Star Wars Lego Games into the Cradle of Aviation (on Long Island) so any kids on Long Island could have a hands on experience in one place. This idea, to me, is the ultimate exposure and promotion of the 'common sense' approach to showing kids that learning can be fun and you need to touch, feel, play, learn, experiment an create on your own. My grant was not a winner, and I'm still reaching out here on Long Island to continue my passion of making a difference in the untraditional way of teaching children. There's my success story. Go Girls - we know how to make a difference in their lives, let's keep it going !

museum educator

FLL Robotics

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I coach a FIRST Lego League team (have for 6 years) and we still struggle to attract girls. The middle school age group is part of the problem - they are so very concerned about 'fitting in'. We've had co-ed teams and the boys invariably push out the girls if not overtly, then subconsciously by expecting them to do more of the research and graphics and less of the actual robot building. The girls can become marginalized and less engaged. Also, many girls this age are reluctant to walk into a room filled with boys for try-outs.

I'd recommend offering girl-only STEM opportunities - we see girls turn out in droves for Engineering-A-Future days sponsored by Girl Scouts and our local Women in Engineering group. I'll be taking the one girl on our team this year to tour the elementary schools this spring and hopefully inspire more girls to make the step and come out for the team.

Research in STEM Education

Girls show interest in Robotics program in Tampa Bay

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I saw this article in the Tampa Bay Times recently and it inspired me. I think there can be potential in the field of robotics for females to shine, not to mention it integrates many different fields of science. Check it out at:

Save the Corals

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We are very excited to share with you our newly posted app on the itunes store. This is an interactive fiction book for children (based on real science), titled "Save the Corals."

We invite you to download the app at the itunes store. Your students will enjoy reading and engaging in moving the story forward as they explore possibilities of saving corals and the 4,000 plus marine life that live in this ocean village. Here's the itunes link to the app:

Middle school math tutor serving New Bedford, MA

Utilizing Community STEM-sters as tutors

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I am a volunteer math tutor at a small, tuition-free, private school that serves grades 5-8. I have university degrees and work experience in architecture and psychology. I see up close the problem that sex-stereotyped peer pressure creates. We've no boys and yet girls are still reluctant to be assertive about their interest in math and science or their desire to be simply good in math. Anyone who sticks out as particularly smart is yanked down by the others. I use my time with the girls one-on-one to talk about why they need to know the things they are learning and how they would use them in a project or on a job that interests them. I find that the girls who clam up in front of others will open up about their dreams and aspirations when we are alone, hunched over algebra homework. I just keep encouraging them to use their imaginations and remember to picture themselves as adults in the community some day making an important contribution. My girls are from very poor families, mostly headed by single moms. I often tell them that the more math you know, the higher you are likely to go in the professional world and the easier it will be to pay their bills and live a stable lifestyle. I think just knowing there is an adult reinforcing the idea that you can be good at STEM subjects, that you will not be in middle school ruled by the same clique forever and that you do not need to be limited by your current circumstances can counterbalance the prevailing stereotypes.

Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

Getting Girls into Physical Science

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0 getting away from bangs and smells and toy rockets mounted around the room looking um, Freudian. The traditional physical science introduction is unintentionally very un-friendly to girls, and it's reflected in very low enrollment in particularly physics at our high school. Physics is a gateway subject for medicine, engineering and on and on. We can't afford to miss all that talent.

No point in hand wringing. Here's what I'm trying
- Adding meaning and relevance to all physical science topics front and center. Why do we need to know about, say acids and bases? Girls need context even more than boys according to research.

- As much as possible, I use food science to replace chemistry labs (girls AND boys love this and so do I - builds community to eat together too.) See this link for deets:

- In physics, labs are around sports and games that appeal to jocks and nerds of both genders - climbing, helmet sports for the 'egg head helmet' project, geocaching. More at

I'm glad to see this topic discussed. I suffered from it too at school and it's really challenging to be teaching physical science as a result. I feel somehow inadequate as a female teacher of this male-dominated subject area.

Educational Media Producer

Strong female leads?

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While hands-on learning with Legos and other such toys can be great tools for developing an interest in STEM topics, I also have seen the effect of imagination and play build a curiosity and interest in math.
I thought i'd share a little about what we discovered in developing The Digits, which features a strong female lead character named Pavi.

Almost without exception, every girl under 10 for whom we've shown The Digits has been drawn to Pavi. When we ask a child what they like about Pavi, the qualities that were mentioned were:
"She's in charge."
"She's pretty."
"She can tell the others what to do."
"she's smart."

Without question, each one of these phrases was started with "She's a girl and..." It got me thinking a lot about behavior modeling and how for a child to aspire to something, it can be very inspirational to "see themselves" in the media they consume. There are many female scientists, mathematicians and engineers in pop culture, though your mileage may vary in terms of content.

Betty Ross in the Hulk
Agent Scully in X-Files
Dr Sattler and Lex Murphy in Jurassic Park.

And even some prominent real world scientists who don't fit the traditional stereotype of "lab coat and frizzy hair".

Cara Santa Maria
Amber Case

museum educator

Excellent job, Scott. Yes,

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Excellent job, Scott. Yes, that's surely an influence, however long term. WTG!

STEM curriculum writer, PLC author, consultant and trainer

STEMchat resources for girls & STEM

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I participate in STEMchat on Twitter, and find lots of good conversation and links about girls and STEM. Try this link for a summary of the last STEMchat.

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