5 ways to interest more girls (and boys) in science

Make it fun and relatable

I’m constantly searching for ways make science relatable to the everyday things in girls’ lives.  So, for a lab on the intermolecular forces of different types of alcohol, I created an activity that uses fingernail polish and remover to illustrate that the vapor pressure of acetone is due to weak intermolecular forces, which is why it evaporates more quickly than water or other compounds that contain strong hydrogen bonds like alcohols.

To begin the lab, I ask the girls to paint the boys’ fingernails (we get the parents’ permission in advance). Then, the girls use nail polish remover on the boys’ nails. The boys immediately notice that the acetone feels cold on their fingers. While the girls are already familiar with this sensation, it’s new to the boys, which makes it fun for everyone.

Then, I ask students to take the temperature sensor and dip it into a series of alcohols of increasing molecular size to examine vaporization rates via rates of cooling. This helps them see that the stronger the intermolecular force, the harder for the alcohol to vaporize and vice versa.

Make it safe

Students — particularly those who lack confidence in their STEM skills — need to know that the classroom is a safe place to try new things, take risks, and expand their horizons. They need to know that they won’t be ridiculed or dismissed — by the teacher or their peers — for asking questions or incorrectly answering a question.

Allowing students to first explore in small groups, talk and figure things out on their own makes the lecture part of our lesson more engaging. It also helps students feel like they’re all coming into the lecture at the same place.

It’s also important to be approachable. I encourage students to ask me questions before, during and after class — in person, via the Remind website, or via email.

Helping students, especially girls, feel like they can be scientists is critical as well. Conducting labs, even in lower level science courses, builds understanding and makes students feel important, like they can actually “do science” and succeed.

Make it accessible

I use a program called ScreenCast-O-Matic to record my classroom lecture each day and then post to YouTube. This allows students to watch the lecture, in private, as many times as needed to build their understanding.

Make it popular

My students and I often post about our lab activities on Instagram and Twitter. We also include photos to drive home the concept that anyone can participate in STEM.

In addition, posting on social media makes our classes seem fun and relatable, which they are. I also use hashtags like #GirlsInScience and #GirlsInSTEM to further encourage girls to join my classes and explore these fascinating subjects.

Make a difference

Thanks to these strategies, I know I’m making a difference in students’ lives. Many girls have told me that after taking one of my classes, they could actually see themselves doing science because it no longer felt distant or intimidating. Several have even gone on to pursue STEM in college or graduate school or as a career.

Using inquiry-based learning and hand-on technologies helps me engage all students through real-time data that connects to real-world applications. This helps students make the connection between STEM and their own lives. It helps them build confidence and increases their understanding, which improves their academic performance. These connections make higher education or a career in STEM seem possible and attainable.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.


We’re Celebrating 25 Years with 25 Giveaways!

Enter Each Day to Win the Daily Gift Card Giveaway

and the Grand Prize drawing for an

Apple iPad!

Visit eSchool News each day through April 1, 2023 to enter the daily $25 Gift Card drawing.
Each daily entry counts as one entry for the grand prize drawing. See details and rules.
Giveaway is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Canada who are employed full- or part-time in K-12 education.