Why Putting the A in STEM is Critical for Girls

Two summers ago, at a symposium sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls Schools, I had the privilege to engage with keynote speaker, Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director of the Boston Museum of Science and creator of the National Center for Technological Literacy. His presentation was both humorous and provocative, entitled – ”Science in the K-12 Schools: Oh My, do we have it WRONG!” He proceeded to talk about the need for relevance when presenting STEM subjects, especially for girls who generally seek connection to science and technology that promotes the “greater good.” Women are choosing fields like medicine and bio-medical engineering where they feel they can change people’s lives. It’s not that these fields are easy; it’s simply that women often need the how and the why addressed when choosing career paths.

I appreciated his call for a greater understanding of how a car works versus weeks of study on volcanic activity. Nothing wrong with a proper understanding of plate tectonics, but kids do spend much more time in automobiles than inside volcanoes!

He went on to say that in the US we have a very murky understanding of what exactly engineers do. In his native Greece and throughout Europe, engineering is a highly regarded and better-understood profession. Again, young people need relevance and connection in order to pursue these careers. He sited a study that suggests that sons and daughters of engineers are much more likely to pursue a comparable career. I must confess that my own study of aerospace engineering in undergraduate school was indeed inspired by my parents’ studies in chemical engineering at the University of Havana. I am sure that my mother was one of the few women in Cuba, perhaps in the world, studying engineering in 1960. I would say an SGS girl at her core!

SGS already features signature “being there” experiences such as the Salish Seas expedition in grade 5, medical board exams in grade 6, the building of numerous devices in grade 7, and Mission in grade 8. Our more recent WFA (Women’s Funding Alliance) STEAM Grant is allowing us to take our commitment to the next level and provide a model for others to replicate. Relevance and full exposure to STEM + the arts = STEAM makes for a winning equation, especially for girls!
I leave you with a definition of engineering that might serve as a starting point next time you discuss future careers with your daughter:
The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.

If you would like to follow this thread to a broader context, I recommend the article from the Huffington Post, stem-to-steam-art-is-key-_b_2123099.html