How Teachers Can Inspire More Girls to Get Into STEM

Most parents and teachers would agree that gender stereotypes are dated, and kids should pursue whatever interests and activities they want, from robotics to dance and everything in between. Girls and boys alike can become doctors, nurses, engineers, professional athletes or whatever else they set their mind to. Gender shouldn’t dictate what kids like or the path they pursue as teens and adults—this type of thinking is over, and a more progressive mindset has opened a whole new world of possibility.

That said, women are still significantly underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). And, when they do enter the STEM world as adults, women are typically paid less, published fewer times and awarded smaller grants than their male colleagues. Only 12% of members of national science academies are women, and in advancing fields like AI (artificial intelligence), only one in five professionals is a woman.

When STEM (or STEAM) activities are brought into the classroom, girls and boys alike can explore and discover new ways of thinking. February 11th is the United Nations International Day of Women & Girls in Science and in honour of this great day, we’d like to highlight some amazing educators and their work. Here are some excellent examples of real-life teachers finding innovative ways to bring STEM learning into the classroom—the perfect way to illustrate that STEM is for everyone.

Staying Afloat 

This primary teacher in Cambridge, Ontario had his students make tin foil boats that were able to hold marbles while successfully floating. It looks like a super fun learning experience that challenges students to think outside the box.

Sweet Structures

A creative teacher in Burlington, Ontario had primary students build unique structures out of a collection of materials that included cardboard, cotton swabs, popsicle sticks and jumbo marshmallows. Learning about engineering has never been sweeter for those kids.

Smart Art 

Math and visual arts came together for a project in this U.S. classroom. Kids learned about shapes and angles while getting creative with colour. The end results were frame-worthy—and totally unique to the students who made each piece.

STEM Investigators  

Dun dun dun…this must have been a school day they’ll never forget. These students in Toronto got to process a staged crime scene as part of an innovative science lesson. What a fun way to think critically, collaborate with peers and learn basic chemistry.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Another Toronto teacher brought a favourite children’s story into a STEM challenge. These kindergarten kids show that you’re never too young for science, technology, engineering and math—especially when a bit of art and literacy is worked in.

If you’re looking to inspire more girls in your classroom to get into science, tech, engineering and math, here are some tips:

  • Share exciting stories of female scientists like Roberta Bondar, or read one of her children’s books about being the first woman in space

  • Add picture books like Ada Twist, Scientist and Rosie Revere, Engineer to your primary classroom to help normalize women in STEM roles

  • Show examples of STEM-based jobs in a variety of environments—music and cinema, amusement parks, medicine, architecture, the zoo and other places that interest your students

  • Reinforce that gender stereotypes should not influence any child’s interests or life path, and emphasize the soft skills needed for a STEM career (problem solving, creativity and observation, for example) as these qualities are often found in young girls

  • Make STEM fun for everyone, like the educators above did! Check out Staples’ selection of STEM/STEAM-focussed educational toys and games for inspiration.

If you’re a teacher who has brought engaging STEM activities into the classroom, consider sharing them on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. You may end up inspiring someone just as these educators have inspired us.

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By Staples Canada

February 01, 2022