A few good women are helping to see that girls get the same opportunities as boys when it comes to math, science, and technology.
The women, recipients of this year’s Eleanor Roosevelt Teacher Fellowships, offered since 1989 through the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation, recently completed the foundation’s annual five-day Teacher Institute in Washington, D.C.
The goal of the fellowship program is to help narrow the gender gap in math, science, and technology achievement that exists in today’s public schools.
Fellowships are available to women teachers in grades K-12. Teachers can apply individually or as lead members of teams that can include other teachers, administrators, or even parents (team members can be male or female).
Nineteen teachers from across the country were selected as 1999-2000 Eleanor Roosevelt Teacher Fellows, receiving anywhere from $1,000 to $9,000 to support projects aimed at girls and specifically in the areas of math, science, and/or technology.
And, according to a foundation report released last fall, technology might just be the most important aspect of the program.
Though girls have made significant strides in narrowing the gap in math and science achievement, a “major” new gender gap has developed in the areas of computers and technology, the report states.
The study, “Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children,” finds, among other things, that girls are less likely than boys to take computer science and computer design courses. Furthermore, girls tend to seek computer skills that will help them prepare for traditionally female occupations.
“Girls have narrowed some significant gender gaps, but technology is now the new ‘boys club’ in our nation’s public schools,” said former AAUW Executive Director Janice Weinman at the time the report was released. “While boys program and problem solve with computers, girls use computers for word processingthe 1990s version of typing.”
To address this issue, the foundation has made technology a key focal point for its programs.
“We encourage projects that bring new technology to girls and that really help them understand the programming and components behind computers,” said Nancy Eynon Lark, director of programs for the foundation.
And several projects being developed by this year’s fellows took that encouragement to heart.
Take Connie Bow, a teacher and technology coordinator in Chillicothe, Mo., who is using her fellowship money to launch a tech camp for girls. There, 15 girls will build computers and ultimately become web masters for their school.
Fellow Ruth Elkins from Anderson, Ind., will start a tech club in which girls will experiment with new uses for software programs.
Bow and Elkins joined 17 other fellows in Washington, D.C., from July 24-28 to take part in the foundation’s Teacher Institute, a requirement for all fellows.
The institute is designed to help the participants refine their project plans. Most fellows are just at the beginning of the project development stage, said Eynon Lark.
“We get them to really think about what elements of their projects need more work,” she said.
And by attending the institute, the teachers also build a vast support network among themselves and among past fellows.
Past and present fellows, as well as recipients of the foundation’s Community Action Grants, are connected through eMail and actively communicate through a dedicated listserv.
The institute also shows teachers how to build stakeholder support and concludes with important lessons on how to evaluate projects for measurable outcomes, Eynon Lark said.
Traditionally open only to fellowship recipients and their teammates, the foundation for the first time allowed teachers and administrators from outside to attend some of the program. Approximately 17 non-fellows participated in the open forum this year, and Eynon Lark said plans are to continue to keep the forum open in the future.
Applications for 2000-01 fellowships now are available from AAUW online and by phone. Submissions must be postmarked by Jan. 10, 2000. Next year’s fellows will be announced in April.
The fellowships support professional development for teachers, educational opportunities for girls, and the advancement of gender equity in the classroom, school, or district.
Fellows must be committed to teaching for at least three years and are required to develop an independent study plan that includes college coursework, seminars, and/or professional workshops.
American Association of University Women