GLOBAL ARTICLE: Girls Love Science Too!

STEM_6I read an article on a website not too long ago stating that “74 percent of girls say they are interested in Math and Science classes. But women only make up about 26 percent of STEM workers.” This article was supported by a video clip that I watched showing that 7 out of 10 girls are interested in Science. But only two out of 10 will pursue it as a career.

After reading the article and watching the video clip, a question popped into my mind, “How can we, MIE Experts, promote girls advancement in Science”? With this question in mind, I decided to make a Global Article. This global article is a collection of all the articles written by the different MIEs around the world focusing on how they will help girls love Science.

Inviting the innovative teachers from different countries in writing an article was not a difficult task for me. In fact, the experts really want to share many things about this topic and hoping that, in this way, they can change the idea that only boys can be great scientists.

So what are we, the MIEs, doing in our own workplace together with our colleagues to address this issue and help the girls love Science?

1) Nam Ngo Thanh
Vietnam Australia International School, Vietnam

At my school, the Vietnam Australia International School, teachers noticed that it was difficult for the girls to understand Science easily and loving it begins early in grade school. Grade school girls think that Science is only for the boys. So with this, my co-workers and I started to think about how to help girls engage themselves actively in the different Science activities.

Below are some ways we promote Science to girls:

1. Telling young girls that, “You can become a scientist as well!”
We tell the girls about the female scientists who made big contribution in the field of Science. Through these great mirrors, we encourage girls to participate in Science events, and to explore and discover its importance.

2. Helping them to make their own experiments.
We encourage girls to make their own experiments to relate themselves in interesting life situations such as creating their own shampoo. We really do believe that application of what they have learned in the four corners of the room is really effective.

3. Organizing Science fair and clubs.
Each month, our school has a Science Fair where girls can participate in different Science activities. We also have some clubs such as Science, Robotics, Minicraft, and Kodu Games that help girls to prove their abilities.

These three ways in promoting Science in our school increased the number of girls who love Science and helped them realized that “Science is not only for boys!”

2) Luis Fernandes
Freixo School Cluster, Portugal

STEM_7After 6 years’ experience with the Robotic Club, in 2013, Freixo School Cluster, Portugal, decided to start a mandatory subject about coding for 7th and 8th graders. This was a bold decision because female students were not very motivated for this and often said that it was a “boys’ game.” Shortly after, we found out that girls are so powerful and surpassed boys in many tasks due to their analytical skills necessary to code. When students have to teach other students they all learn better. That’s exactly what we have done with this example “Girl Power” coding.

If this can motivate girls to learn how to code, why not a coding class with Kodu, where girls and boys work together to reach their achievements? Girls are so powerful that they have been invited to share their amazing work in a Microsoft in Education Portuguese Forum!

3) Michael A. Soskil, USA
2012 US Presidential Award for Math and Science Teaching Recipient

Girls love science for the same reason that boys do – learning about the world around us is fun! Children are naturally passionate. The key for teachers is to make sure that we encourage that love of learning in all of our students. Let students get their hands dirty and experiment. Let them celebrate successes and use failures as learning opportunities.

The best scientists have the most inquiring minds. Sometimes in our rush to cover our curriculum we discourage learners from asking the most important questions. Develop a culture in your classroom where students feel comfortable asking “Why?” Be less helpful, more supportive, and give students control over their own learning. Instead of giving answers to questions, reply with, “How can we find out?”

If girls are given the same opportunity as boys to explore, build, wonder, and create, they will grow up loving science just as much as their male classmates. Many of the world’s greatest scientists were women – Madam Curie, Sally Ride, Rosalind Franklin, and so many others. What women had in common was a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning. Those are the qualities that we most need to foster in our female students.

4) Hari Krishna Arya, India

Girls are as accomplished as boys in Science. We need to change the way we engage with them so that more young women pursue careers in science and technology. Instead of telling girls to pay more attention to science, there has to be a change in the way we teach it to them. Girls enjoy meaningful relationships and have strong verbal ability. Allowing them to converse with peers and discuss the scientific process can keep them engaged, as opposed to imposing the use of formulae and symbols upon them. Providing meaningful feedback on the strategies they have used, instead of judging them on the final answer, can help girls appreciate the ‘right’ steps they have taken despite getting the ‘wrong’ answer. In doing this, we can make girls aware of their strengths in the subject.

Everyone is influenced by people around them. A teacher who loves a certain subject can infuse the same passion in her students. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. A dislike for enquiry and experimentation can also be passed on to learners. Just as one would like to keep girls away from negative role models, one can gain much by exposing these very girls to women who have flourishing careers in STEM related fields.

Parents – get your girls to deeply engage with women who are physicists, astronomers, chemists, biotechnologists and computer scientists. Let your girls catch the enthusiasm. Don’t be afraid to buy toys and experiment kits that help build scientific skills in your daughter. Even Lego blocks can be used to build spatial skills in girls, a skill that is often underdeveloped in the brains of young women due to lack of training. Show your little girl that the more one learns and practices, the better one gets at something. Using language that encourages the child helps too.

5) Erly Leosala Matacot
Dasmarinas East National High School, Philippines

Educating students is not the only task of teachers. They should also recognize the different skills and talents of their students regardless of their gender. Teachers should be gender-sensitive and should treat all the students equally.

But we also know that some students are not interested in learning a certain subject, thinking that this is not fitted to their gender. Traditionally, people think that girls hate Science.

So, what are the schools doing in our country, Philippines, to address this kind of issue? In October 2014, the Philippines remained the top performer in the Asia-Pacific in terms of gender equality in two indicators, namely, education and health. (Source: http://globalnation.inquirer.net) This is a good indication that the education in our country is giving equal opportunities to all the students and is also addressing the problem for those students, especially girls, who do not like Science.

My school, Dasmarinas East National High School, gives equal treatment to every student. We really believe that if teachers are well-prepared in their lessons, all students are motivated to learn. So, girls in our school are not really thinking that Science is for the boys only. We have our Science Club wherein most of the student-officers are girls. Most young research members of our school’s Science Investigatory Project Team are also girls. In fact, they are competing for the Science and Technology Fair every year.

So, how we can motivate girls to love Science? According to my co-teacher, Mrs. Edna Gabriel, “We should integrate the practical application of Science in everything they do.” It is really a fact that if the girls will apply what they have learned, appreciation will also take place.

We should also not forget how ICT integration can help teachers in motivating our students to learn. Mr. Felix Bunagan, MIE Expert from the Philippines, said that, “As teachers, adding well-prepared PowerPoint presentations, visual materials including videos will surely make girls give priority to Science.”
Let girls learn to appreciate what Science could offer for them. One of our students, Danica Tabajunda said that, “Science is everywhere. Science is within us. The gadgets I use for games and communication are products of Science. So, I really love Science.”

Gender-sensitivity. Proper motivation. These are the best “paper and pen” that the teachers can bring inside the classroom for them to help girls appreciate Science. With these, girls will also realize and will dream that someday, they can contribute something worthwhile to their community with the help of Science.

6) David Walsh
Ratoath College, Ireland

STEM, mathI must start by saying that I am not a science teacher, but I do understand the concept of wishing to engage young minds. Wishing to promote something is pretty much the same no matter what sphere we discuss. Trying to promote an aspiration in young females to pursue a career (or even merely develop an interest) in the area of science is no different. We need to provide the stimulus to create an aspiration within these young minds.

One significant way we can do this is to give them heroes, or in this case heroines, to inspire them. Fortunately, we don’t have to look too far for inspirational females in the world of science. There are many and their discoveries and scientific achievements are both significant and inspirational in equal measure.

Marie Curie would certainly be the front runner in this regard. She discovered two of the Scientific elements, was the first female to win the Noble prize for Science in 1903, and she became the first ever person to win the prize twice in 1911. Intriguingly here daughter Irene also went on to win a Noble prize for Chemistry!

There are many others; Caroline Hershel who was the first woman to discover a comet (she discovered eight in total!), Barbara McClintock is another who led the way in genetic research, herself winning a noble prize in 1983 for her work. We don’t have to look too far for female scientists throughout history.

Contemporary science has lots to offer too. For me, a great example of an inspirational female Scientist is Jennifer Rohn, a Biologist from the US, who is quite vocal about the need for encouraging young girls to find role models in the science world and she is quite the role model herself (check her out on twitter @JennyRohn).

In short, if we are to encourage young girls to aspire to be scientists then we need to provide them with the inspirational role models for them to aspire to become and for whose work they aspire to emulate.

7) Angels Soriano Sanchez
Martí Sorolla II ( Grupo Sorolla), Spain.

When Ngo Thanh Nam invited me to write an article about how I could encourage young women to love science, though it is not my specialty, I did not hesitate to answer “yes.”

It is my pleasure to share our ideas on how we can help girls love Science. Although Ngo Thanh Nam is from Vietnam and I am from Spain, we communicated using Facebook. It was easy to convey the messages, for we have the same passion in touching the lives of our students.

Throughout history, there are women who have excelled in all areas of culture (science, painting, literature, and politics). We know, and perhaps need to recognize, that is the case, since sometimes textbooks write history with the same roles as in the past, without introducing any innovation.

We can see work being done in the field of science, as well as the power to make progress developing new projects in any field of science in techniques and in the humanities.

To carry out this adventure we need collaboration, creativity, and innovation in different areas of our lives. The limit of our dreams is not drawn; we thank our works who build the future. You investigate, discover, and collaborate in the project you are developing. Science is the all around us, and you can write the future.

8) Youngsang Cho
Bongseo Elementary School, Republic of Korea.

Eun-Seo and friends are my grade fifth students at Bongseo Elementary School, located in Wanju_Gun, Jeollabuk-do, Republic of Korea. They spend a lot of time in making miniature food, dolls, jewelry, and other items. Miniatures are small things molded from resin, an epoxy, mixed together with different colored substances.

Eun-Seo and her classmates make these miniatures as their hobby. They really love to show and share their works to one another. In fact, they are also preparing their own videos on how they make their own miniatures.

Contrary to that, young girls in my class find it hard to study and to love Science. They think that it is a difficult subject to learn. These young girls, without even noticing, do not understand that doing their miniatures are already an application of Science.

As a class adviser, I need to make them realize that their hobby has a Scientific or Chemistry element. So, every time they do their miniatures during their break time, I always commend them for their great work and tell them that they can be an artist and even a scientist someday. I also let them make miniatures during my Science and Art classes to let them realize that mixing the different substances is also what some chemists are doing.

9) Miriam Gronert
Gesamtschule im Gartenreich School, Oranienbaum-Wörlitz

STEM_8In Germany the so-called “Girls’ Day” takes place once a year. The aim is to motivate especially girls and women to choose a technical or scientific career. Companies invite girls to visit for one day where they get the opportunity to learn about jobs in engineering, science, crafts, and information technology. This should help to increase the proportion of female employees in so-called “men’s jobs” and to reduce a shortages of skilled workers in the industry.

In my opinion, though, one day per year is not nearly enough for the girls. As a chemistry teacher I try to give the girls very much appreciation in STEM fields because I am aware that 70 percent of the girls feel interested in science, but only a few will pursue it as a career.

One important thing for me is to have fun in lessons. Knowing that both girls and boys love to use new technologies I try to include them as often as possible in my lessons. Therefore it is important not to use them only in a technical way that a boy might like to. The girls love to use it in a social way…  to share pictures in Social Media. So I started a little competition for my students: they should share some “Chemistry-Pictures” via Instagram, no matter if it is a selfie in the lab or a drawing of the last experiment set-up. Especially the girls (but also the boys) have had much fun with this task and I hope that these positive feelings encourage them to stick to chemistry

10) Abdulkabeer Ishola
Federal Government College Ogbomoso, Nigeria

A girl is not just a student, but a special one. So often times she needs to be encouraged to study Science or to find it interesting. Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • Make Scientific theorems practically realistic by Visualization.
  • Make learning fun for them through the use of Multimedia and audiovisual materials.
  • Ensure they are interested in what they are learning, otherwise review to create something that will spark their interest.

 

About the Author
Nam Ngo Thanh is a 5th grade teacher at the Vietnam Australia International School at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He loves working with his students and feels inspired by them every day. He is passionate about technology and enjoys helping teachers incorporate technology into their classrooms. Nam is both a Microsoft and ClassDojo Ambassador and can be found on twitter at @mrnamvas.