Girls in STEM!

Many of you who know me well know that I’m on a viaje personal (personal journey) of getting more girls, particularly Latina girls, interested in STEM Careers.  And, since at Kimmel Education & Research Center we have a large agritourism base, I’m also very interested in figuring out how to measure the impact of this largely tourist base….but every county can relate to this issue.  How can we make our displays at fair and local festivals engaging enough to really have impact…say for instance like a really good science center?  Move that display up on Bloom’s taxonomy from just knowledge acquisition to something where the visitor is constructing new meaning? Is it even possible? And, if it isn’t, why am I spending so much time thinking about it and setting up displays at events? :)

This past fall I had the pleasure of meeting Veronika Nunez, Senior Learning & Engagement Specialist the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), and I asked her how the OMSI does it.   Veronika has one of those really cool jobs…she helps design STEM programming at the OMSI. Anyway, this holiday, Veronika gave me a fabulous present….a listing of the key strategies they identified through a research study about how to engage Latina girls in engineering at the OMSI (Sinkey, A., Rosino, L., & Francisco, M., 2014) and currently utilize when developing new exhibits in order to reach out to girls.  Here’s the list:

  1. Feature female role models
  2. Make it social
  3. Engage the senses
  4. Tell a story
  5. Highlight altruism
  6. Make it personal
  7. Use inclusive language
  8. Encourage creativity
  9. Make activities open-minded with no “right” answers

The study itself is posted online, and provided even more insight into encouraging girls to pursue careers in engineering.  My personal strategy has been to tell girls how many jobs will be available, and that in particular the industry is seeking women…all of it factual…but through their research, indicators are that this isn’t a selling point.  Rather altruism is the biggest selling point and the ability to create new things comes in at second place. Job prospects was only important to 5% of the respondents.

In reviewing the research, the participation age was quite young, with 67% of respondents between 9 and 11, and 33% between 12 and 14 years of age.  Perhaps it’s the age of the respondents….but regardless, the age of the respondents reflects the bulk of my youth clientele.

Note to Self: Leave the number of engineering jobs for women stats in when speaking to stakeholders, and leave it out when speaking with the middle school girls.

Hmmmm!  Now that’s research based information I can use to make an even greater impact!


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