How to Attract Middle School Girls to STEM Classes
When it comes to choosing electives in middle school, girls tend to steer away from technology math classes. This lack of interest in math and science continues to declines throughout high school and college. The results? According to THE Journal, only 27% of the scientists and engineers in the U.S. workforce are women. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition wants to make the field more equal when it comes to genders. But how can this be done? It may not be as difficult as one would think.
Use real-life experiences to connect girls to the technology math curriculum
For most middle-school girls science STEM classes mean spending time in the lab wearing goggles and mixing chemicals. Middle schoolers just do not understand how these classes will relate to their future . It is a teacher’s job to inform these girls of the real-life experiences that will be affected by STEM classes. For example, if a girl wants to eventually open up her own hair salon, she is going to need what is being taught in chemistry, math and technology courses. The more a student can see how a class will actually help her in the future, the more likely she will be to not only take a STEM class but actually enjoy it.
Positive role models make a difference
Since there are so few females graduating and making careers in the STEM fields, young women do not have too many women to look up to as role models. One idea is for schools to launch a mentoring program with local colleges. If each female middle school student can be paired up with a female majoring in a college STEM program, the middle schooler will be able to see what can be accomplished in these fields. Plus, the middle schooler will gain more knowledge about what STEM careers can actually offer.
Female students gravitate toward female teachers
One way to get female students more involved in STEM extra-curricular activities is to have them overseen by female teachers. Currently, most schools that do offer STEM programs during and after school are run by male teachers. These clubs can also have female leaders. Middle schools with women leading extracurricular STEM clubs will most likely see more females involved. It is also important that s female students in STEM clubs are given important roles within the club. It would be detrimental to make the few females involved take secondary roles to males.
Involve non-STEM teachers
The job of getting more middle school girls involved in STEM classes does not fall strictly on the STEM teachers. In fact, the non-STEM teachers may be able to have even more of an impact. For example, the students that are active in the arts, such as graphic design, probably use computers. Teachers need to point out the importance of the computers in the arts to spark that interest in the girls. Non-STEM teachers can also encourage students to enroll in after-school activities in the STEM fields that are closely related to their primary interests. The biggest problem is that students are not getting the exposure to the technology that is needed to ignite the interest. They will never know if they have an interest in STEM fields if they are never exposed to them. Sometimes a nudge from a trusted teacher is just what they need.
Start with the small picture
While the goal is to have girls science STEM enrollment equivalent to the boys, it is important for educators to take it one step at a time. Each teacher should focus on getting just one girl interested and involved in STEM classes and clubs. As this student explores the subject, the teacher needs to be extremely encouraging and positive throughout the process. Once this one student shows excitement and interest, the teacher can move on to another student.