International Day of Women and Girls in Science

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A girl doing a science experiement.As a chemist and a mom, I feel it is part of my job to do all I can to help encourage more girls to get involved in science. I have brought this passion home in the form of science kits scattered around the house – we loved Kiwi Crates when they were little and MEL science now that they are bigger. I share my love for science as the Founder and Director of the Wesleyan University Girls in Science Program.

And today, in honor of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I will share tips and tricks to help you support girls in their passion for STEM.

1. Encourage their curiosity.

Science is all about discovering new things, so do everything you can to support their curiosity. When your girl asks a question, give them an honest answer (if you don’t know it, look it up together). Look for cool videos and share them with your future scientist. Be a partner to them in asking questions, and this has the added benefit of helping build healthy attachment and trust.

2. Promote a growth mindset.

Science and education research has taught us that our intelligence isn’t fixed. No one “is not smart enough” to do science. In fact, with time and practice, everyone can learn and level up in any chosen field. Normalize the idea that everyone struggles sometimes and that learning is a process with everyone progressing at their own pace. And just because your girl (and even you) might not be able to do something YET, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do it in the future.

3. Help them find role models.

There are so many more women working in STEM (the big umbrella of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) these days. Regardless of the age group, there are resources available to help girls connect to these amazing women in STEM. Whether they are interested in coloring books or story books, there are many resources to help them find a person like themselves that is doing amazing things in STEM. You can find her a mentor through STEM Mentoring or National Girls Collaborative Project.

4. Watch something together.

Such great shows showcase women doing science for all age ranges. For our littlest scientists, check out Sid the Science Kid (whose teacher Susie is a great STEM-enthusiast), Ada Twist Scientist, and Emily’s Wonder Lab. Odd Squad, Brainchild, Project MC2, and Our Planet are great options as they get older. And then, for your tween to teen, check out SciGirls, One Strange Rock, Our Planet, Breakthrough, and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. And if you watch all of these and need more awesome, empowering recommendations, check here and here. Plus, there are some great women STEM role models for each of us on these shows.

5. Don’t pass on your anxieties.

Yes, I get it. Not everyone is excited about science (or math). Some people are traumatized by their childhood experiences in a class with a terrible instructor. But just because you don’t like science (or math), please make sure that you aren’t passing on your feelings and discouraging their interest. Research has shown that something as simple as reading a math-themed book or story can help reduce anxiety in adults and children alike. You can even learn to have fun with math and STEM by playing games where it is integrated.

6. Enroll them in a STEM class/camp.

There are so many amazing programs for girls (and boys) of all ages to learn about coding, astronomy, or science, and there are camps at many different price points. Locally, there is CT Audubon Society, Discovery Museum, and Connecticut Science Center and the camps at Fairfield University, Yale, and Wesleyan. There are also nationwide STEM and science camps like ID-Tech and Camp Invention.

And you don’t just have to take these tips from me. Here are a few other resources on strategies to Keep Girls in STEM or to Excite and Encourage Girls in STEM in your Classroom. I hope you liked all these ideas to encourage your girl’s love of STEM.

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Erika is a professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies and mom to two kids (2010 and 2013) plus two cats (2005 and 2019). A Midwestern transplant who has lived in 32 places, she has happily called Fairfield her home for the past 12 years. At work, she directs a program to support first-generation and underrepresented student success in science. In town, she can often be found driving her kids back and forth to their respective sporting events and teams or sitting in a coffee shop using the wifi to get a little work done before pick up. Erika loves spending time enjoying the water, cooking, theater, reading, and hanging out with her husband.

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