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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How Do We Involve Girls In STEM?

How Do We Involve Girls In STEM?

Related Tags: STEM
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Jennifer White's picture
Jennifer White
museum educator

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.

Gigi Carunungan's picture

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:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/save-the-corals/id509977075?mt=8

Genevieve Hunt's picture
Genevieve Hunt
Middle school math tutor serving New Bedford, MA

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.

Sue Boudreau's picture
Sue Boudreau
Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

...by 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: http://takeactionscience.wordpress.com/category/chemistry-topics/food-sc...

- 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 http://takeactionscience.wordpress.com/category/physics-topics/

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.

Scotty Iseri's picture
Scotty Iseri
Educational Media Producer

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

Jennifer White's picture
Jennifer White
museum educator

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

USL Go Global's picture
USL Go Global
can make average students learn math and science 7-20+ times faster

Hi. I am glad I found this topic because when I started Unified Super Learning (USL), one of my main goals was to drastically narrow the gender gaps in STEM, starting with math.

There is an actually incredibly fast, easy, and cheap ways to achieve this objective as I am tired of the vast majority of approaches to this goal.

One of the turning point occurred when I saw the politically incorrect true data on the average SAT scores in math between boys and girls over the past 40+ years, right till 2012. Contrary to popular belief, the boy and girl gap hasn't been narrowed at all for over 40 years! The gap has been roughly about 33-36 points throughout although they fluctuated a bit.

I initiated a new program called Unified Super Learning (USL). What it does is to make average students learn STEM subjects 10-20 times faster. I had, however, the burden of proofs. So I decided to run a big scale pilot studies and the results started coming out since about 10 days ago. Although it was only for math for K7-11, and I basically roughly proved to the direction that I can teach 1 month materials from 2 respected private schools in just 35-50 minutes and when students were taken tests in 2 days, the results were staggering.

For more detail, you can visit my website at www.uslgoglobalc.com

Once I complete my math pilots, I will run physics, chemsitry, etc, later on.

I am so glad that I finally completed these pilot studies and now I need a load of supporters around the globe so that I can push this to global.

What I will do eventually is to make average students learn STEM at least 2-4 times faster and easier than the fastest learning mathematicians an physicists (I mean top 10-20 -30 of them not even Harvard or MIT professors in math or physics) in the entire world.

Imagine what kind of world we will get if this is possible.

I know the claims are extreme and almost impossible to beleive, but that was why I had to push these pilot studies.

Welcome onbaord.

Please share the results if you are intrested and want to support the initiative ; )

Good dday.

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