By: Kendall Hunt RPD with contributions from the editorial team
It is essential that students be given ample experiences that will equip them with the skills needed to solve real life problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information.
Early education is the backbone for inclusivity of women in STEM. Not only are girls able to pursue their love for scientific inquiry, but they are exposed to active exploration, observation, interaction, and discovery – which all are imperative to their development.
STEM – Science, technology engineering and math – works to provide students the tools to think critically, innovatively, and actively contribute to their development. Typically, STEM is viewed as a limiting subject focused on building science and math skills, but the curriculum allows for new ways of thinking, curiosity, and the use of information and data.
According to The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, “The National Science and Technology Council, along with the Committee on STEM Education, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) concur that exposure to STEM during early childhood is critical to establishing an optimal educational trajectory.” This has been confirmed through a study by researchers at the University of California Irvine, in which they found that early math skills are a predictive measure of academic success in grades K-5.
STEM in early childhood education provides a variety of benefits. STEM works to…
-Stress the Value of Trial and Error
-Build Creativity and Ingenuity
-Introduce Real World Application
Not only is there an advantage to capitalizing on early brain development, but we can get ahead of young girl’s opinions of STEM that ultimately affect their career decisions.
Studies have shown that when children were asked to draw a mathematician or scientist that girls were twice as likely to draw a man. This is proof that girls have formed gendered stereotypes of fields they should pursue or form a fear of judgement about interest in STEM related fields. A STEM curriculum in early childhood education will provide female students an environment focused on diverse collaboration and opportunities. Specifically working to address gender stereotypes, male-dominated cultures, and provide female role models to reframe these stereotypes.
GIRLS. CAN. STRIVE. TOO.
The Nation’s Report Card concludes that girls are providing the same academic outcomes…
-National test scores for girls have been equal to, or within two points, of boys in fourth and eighth grade.
-Middle school girls are passing algebra at higher rates than boys
-Girls are performing in science at an equal rate as boy in advanced science and math courses.
So how should we implement STEM in early childhood education?
A study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas talks about parent support when made aware of the benefits of a STEM curriculum.
“Parents who are aware of the benefits of a STEM curriculum are more likely to be supportive of STEM education and encourage activities in the home that develop STEM concepts. Tools available to parents include mobile apps designed to introduce children to STEM and literacy concepts at an early age.” The US Department of Education’s “Ready to Learn” initiative has already worked with PBS to develop games and apps for children ages two to eight including those working on science skills. This will help parents encourage their children to pursue an interest in STEM.
Hold administrators, educators, and policy makers in leadership positions accountable for advocating for STEM resources. Policymakers can address this by funding STEM programs, grants, and advisory councils, and educators must create lessons integrating STEM concepts into appropriate activities for different age groups and development. This includes hands on activities that have been proven to help girls gain an interest in STEM.
Provide STEM mentors and female role models (This goes hand in hand with parent involvement!)
There is a link between female role models and an increased passion for STEM in young girls. A study by Microsoft and KRC Research shows that 41% of girls with role models have an interest in science, technology, math, and mathematics compared to 26% of girls without a role model. Overall, there is a 12% increase in interest with girls that have STEM role models.