3... 2...1... Happy New Year!
It’s that time of year again for countdowns and resolutions. At NGCP, we are looking ahead to 2023 and all the ways we can continue to support our girl-serving networks in providing quality STEM experiences. As we are getting ready to ring in the New Year, we would like to share our countdown of 10 simple ways you can support girls in STEM in 2023 (along with the necessary resources to help you accomplish your resolutions). Let the countdown begin!
10. Watch a STEM Girl-Powered Movie – As the weather gets colder, many of us look forward to getting cozy and watching a movie. In 2023, try to include more media that features girls and women in STEM in your movie marathons. A study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that girls are more likely to pursue STEM careers when they see portrayals of women as scientists, programmers, or engineers – it’s called the “Scully Effect.” Not sure what to watch? Hidden Figures, an inspiring film based on the true story of African American women working at NASA during the early space program, is a great choice for older youth and young adults. When watching digital media with younger children, try shorter animated shows like Ada Twist Scientist, the playful story of three friends working together to make discoveries. Find a longer list of film suggestions here.
9. Include the Arts – Art and design play a big role in many technical and scientific fields. The arts can also make STEM more appealing to students who do not already identify with the sciences. This is where STEAM comes in. The “A” of arts in STEAM can refer to the whole spectrum of the liberal arts including music, history, dance, painting, and more. Not sure where to start with STEAM? Check out the STEAM Playbook, created in partnership between NGCP and the Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative. This free playbook includes a collection of play ideas and ready-to-use activities to help you spark children’s interest in STEAM.
8. Start Early Addressing Stereotypes – Stereotypes about gender and aptitude for STEM begin to develop as early as preschool. There are many ways to prevent and counter STEM stereotypes with young children, but the most important thing is just to get started! Early exposure to fun and playful science projects, sensory explorations, unplugged coding interfaces and more can be a wonderful way to pique girls’ interest in STEM from an early age. Learn specific strategies and resources for reaching young children in the recording of our webinar, “Addressing STEM Stereotypes with Young Children.” You can also check out our blog post, “5 Ways to Counter STEM Stereotypes with Children and Youth” for more tips.
7. Explore STEM-themed toys – One way to start early with STEM learning is through exploration of STEM-themed toys. With all the STEM toys out there, it can be difficult to choose the best ones. One great resource to guide you is the Toy Association’s “STEAM Toy Assessment Framework”, which defines and details specific characteristics of a good STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) toy for various age groups. You can learn more about using this framework in practice in the recording of our webinar “the Genius of Play and STEAM.” Toys can also be a catalyst to break stereotypes. Find out how in our blog post “How Toys Can Help Break Stereotypes and Support STEAM Learning.”
6. Read STEM-themed books – STEM-themed books are a wonderful way to begin having conversations with children about STEM. They also provide the opportunity to reflect diversity in STEM in much the same way as movies and digital media. The stories that we share should aim to be reflective of the diversity we hope to see in STEM, and as diverse as the world we live in. Try reading aloud STEM picture books with female protagonists like Rosie Revere Engineer and Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty. You can find a long list of diverse STEM picture books for elementary students here. The website A Mighty Girl, which is dedicated to curating collections of books, toys, and media for inspiring smart and confident girls, also has a great list of books related to science and technology.
5. Think Beyond the Hour of Code – Many of us in the STEM education world try to explore coding during Computer Science Education Week in December through an Hour of Code activity at school or in informal learning settings. In 2023, make a resolution to think beyond the Hour of Code and find natural ways to integrate coding into your STEM programming throughout the year. Free resources like Scratch and Microsoft MakeCode are great for use with older children and teens (check out this NGCP blogpost for tips on using MakeCode). Meanwhile, free programming apps like ScratchJr and PBS Kids ScratchJr are perfect for younger children around ages 5-8.
4. Find Science Near You – Sometimes creating your own event or program is daunting. Luckily, there are online resources available to help you find STEAM programs and events near you! Connected Girls, for example, is a free, curated directory of girl-serving STEAM opportunities. NGCP manages Connected Girls in partnership with Science Near Me, an NSF-funded resource with the goal of helping anyone — anywhere in the U.S. — participate in engaging science, technology, engineering, and math that matters. We hope to see you at a great STEAM event near you in 2023!
3. Learn About Diverse Role Models – Exposing girls and young women to diverse STEM role models helps to dispel stereotypes about who can succeed in STEM. In the new year, make a plan to introduce girls to STEM role models from a variety of career fields. Not sure where to find a role model? Check out FabFems, an international database of women in STEM managed by the NGCP. The women in this database are passionate about serving as role models and helping spark career interest and awareness. The IF/THEN® Collection from Lyda Hill Philanthropies is another useful resource. The IF/THEN® Collection is a free digital library with photos, videos, posters, activities, and other assets featuring diverse women STEM innovators — all available for educational and other non-commercial use. You can also join NGCP on January 26th for our webinar, “The Impact of STEM Role Models and Mentors” to learn more about effective role modeling strategies.
2. Support Curiosity – STEM fields are about asking questions – not having all the answers! Preschool children ask their parents about 100 questions a day and between ages 2-5 years kids ask a total of around 40,000 questions. But as kids grow up, they stop asking so many questions. At around age 5 (right when most kids are starting formal schooling) the questions they ask drop steeply. Their curiosity is often stifled by the need to cover academic content. In the new year, educators and caregivers can vow to find time for asking questions and fostering intellectual curiosity. Learn specific strategies for supporting intellectual curiosity here. Ready to get started fostering curiosity? Try exploring Curiosity Camp, a free interactive, multi-platform experience of video "campisodes" paired with DIY activities, curriculum, and more created by GoldieBlox, an IF/THEN Initiative® coalition member.
1. Have Fun – STEM is often seen as serious business (and sometimes it is). But STEM can also be playful, messy, silly, artsy, and above all, FUN! However you decide to explore STEM in 2023, we wish you a year of smiles and laughter doing it.
From all of us at NGCP, Happy New Year!