From women inventors in Marvel’s Black Panther to female scientists in kids’ magazines, the way media portrays scientists has been steadily changing. Psychologist David Miller, and his colleagues looked at 78 studies that asked American kids to “draw a scientist.”
In the sixties and seventies, fewer than one percent of the children drew women. By 2016, that percentage averaged 34 percent. But, researchers found kindergartners were just as likely to draw women as men.
“During those ages from five to ten that’s really when they start to develop those associations,” Miller says.
But by the time students were in high school, roughly 75 percent of the drawings were of men. Miller says research suggests that science stereotypes seem to start to develop in elementary school.
That’s something that the Altoona Area School District is trying to change. One example–it’s elementary school lending libraries.
Assistant Superintendent Patty Burlingame says, “We have bots, spiros, dash, that’s the robotic pieces. We also have building pieces and so we wanted to have that opportunity for all of our children to participate.”
And kids can bring their parents in to use these items on Tinker Tuesday evenings, which are becoming pretty popular,
Burlingame says a major effort to make sure girls are part of this process gets underway this Thursday and Friday in the district.
“We’re really excited for our Girls’ STEM Day, especially our elementary piece, because we have keynote speakers coming in that are wildlife specialists, air traffic controllers, engineers, audiologists, and biologist so that really gives those children an opportunity to see women shine,” she explains.
And they’ll get their own opportunity to learn during demonstrations and games, that they can also shine.
Burlingame says, “The STEM Careers Game will be a guessing game. It will encourage the students to use some pieces of technology in a gamification way in order to recognize the variety of careers that young women can participate in in stem.”
The Girls’ STEM Day will focus on grades seven through nine on Thursday at the junior high and three through six on Friday at the elementary schools.
“I think the whole day’s going to be fun. I think the girls are really going to love it,” Burlingame says.
She adds that it’s important for parents to encourage their children to build, to experiment, and to take opportunities to learn about STEM.
During STEM day for girls, boys in all grades will practice coding.