Is STEM getting ‘IT’ right for female students?

We can and must do more in our schools to increase the number of women in STEM careers

STEM is in fact STEAM; we need to plant the arts and humanities at the heart of the story. The future of human potential relies on the marriage of technology and creativity. We need to be better at encouraging the integration of cross-curricular themes and drawing out the links between the arts and the sciences. There are some great ideas for cross-curricular STEAM lessons at LessonPlansPage.

As teachers, we need to remember the power of stories. I recently watched the brilliant movie Hidden Figures with my wife, who is a school principal. Watching the film led to days of discussion about women and science. There are some fantastic stories and books to promote STEM for young girls, including Ada Twist, Scientist (), by Andrea Beaty. Share books with your students and get them to respond through a cross-curricular project. We have to make STEM matter to them and that means through context setting and experiential learning. It’s always great to start with a story!

For developers, vendors, and tech providers, remember that children are complex consumers. Just painting tech pink will not work! Girls love creating things, and many enjoy fashion, arts, crafts, and beauty. Develop products that use those interests as access points, not as alternatives. Linking STEM development to the things children love and understand is always the best access point.

Maybe, in truth, we need to be done with labels. It doesn’t matter whether we call it STEM, STEAM, or something else. What’s more important is to remember that children are deeply inquisitive and curious, and they all want to know more about their world and how it works. All children, regardless of gender, are born scientists; the real question we need to be asking is not how we encourage them to become interested in STEM, but how we keep managing to encourage so many kids out of it! With a positive, inclusive mindset toward the STEM fields, we can encourage all students to tap into their natural interests to enjoy and pursue them.

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