Encouraging Girls in Science

When I talk to girls about STEM, I often tell the story of how I would ask my father to
buy me science toys. Over time I received a microscopes, Mattel Creepy Crawlers bug maker kit, binoculars, test tubes, slides, brine shrimp, and an American Flyer electric train. My mother objected to my father’s gifts of what she considered to be gender biased and asked him to stop buying me toys made for boys. She tried for years to persuade me to give the train away because as she kept telling me, “Girls don’t play with trains.”

I thank my father today for indulging my love of science and buying me the microscope
and binoculars. I laugh too when I think of how many days I spent squeezing that slimy
colored goo into the little bug molds and heating them up to make rubber crawly things.
Mattel marketed Creepy Crawlers to boys and commercials showed them making various bugs
from spiders, worms, and scorpions and using the newly minted bugs to scare the daylights out of girls, mothers, and grandmothers including mine.

I didn’t develop a love of Entomology deep enough to make a career out of it but it has
allowed me not to be afraid of bugs, worms, and snakes and see the beauty in everything
in nature both big and small. Children need encouragement from parents to pursue their
dreams and teachers also can help to stoke the fire of science engagement. With the
digital and mobile app age upon us, there are more opportunities than ever for engagement, especially for girls. Here are few:


NASA Girls NASA G.I.R.L.S. (Giving Initiative and Relevance to Learning Science) is a new online mentoring program from Women@NASA designed for girls in 5th-8th grades that will pair a girl interested in STEM one-on-one with a female NASA employe through the innovative use of technology.  The program will start in the fall of 2012.


National Girls Collaborative Project  The National Girls Collaborative Project, a national project working to create gender equity in the areas of STEM offers programs and provides matching mini-grants of up to $1,000 for projects that involve girls in STEM.  In 2009 I was the receipent of a mini-grant from the Midwest Girls Collaborative Project to implement my “Let’s do Launch” girls pre-engineering program.