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How to Get Your Girl Into Science

How to Get Your Girl Into Science

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Updated on Jul 14, 2008

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Sally Ride’s monumental Challenger mission. And, since becoming the first American woman in space, Ride has dedicated her career to making sure girls are given the same opportunities to make history in the fields of math, science, and technology.

There is much talk these days about the math and science gap that exists between boys and girls, but in fact, scores from the National Assessment for Educational Progress show very little evidence for a gap between boys and girls in science and math. The problem, Ride says, is that as girls enter high school their interest in pursuing math and science careers begins to drop off. This may be due to lingering stereotypes that calculus and physics are more for boys, but Ride hopes that the growing number of female scientists and engineers will help guide young women into these careers.

Ride says parents play a huge role in dispelling gender stereotypes, and inspiring in their daughters a positive attitude about science.

So how can you get your girl into space, at the microscope, behind the drafting board, and otherwise entrenched in math, science and technology? Sally Ride Science’s Parent Handbook says parents can start by simply talking to their girls about their interests and aspirations, and holding high expectations for them in math and science subjects. In addition, she says parents should examine their own views about math, science and gender. Do you unintentionally convey messages that may reinforce gender stereotypes?

To “dissolve the mystique” around science and math, and to build confidence in problem-solving, the handbook also suggests parents encourage their daughters to explore — and to make mistakes.

Here are some ways to stoke her curiosity!

  • Break down the mystique surrounding science. Science is part of everyday life. Encourage your daughter to explore the science and math all around her and provide your daughter with opportunities to ask questions.
  • Encourage your daughter to dig into science. Let her know that it is okay for things to get messy, dirty or wet. Science is fun!
  • Send the message that science is for girls. There are plenty of women making important contributions to science. Check out biographies of women scientists; talk about the exciting work they’re doing.
  • Support your daughter’s involvement in informal science activities. Good informal science activities (for example, astronomy clubs, science camps) are effective in fostering girls’ interests in science.
  • Encourage your daughter to experiment. Trial-and-error helps build confidence in problem-solving skills—and it’s part of science!
  • Take your daughter to science centers and museums. Provide her with opportunities to explore science in fun, hands-on ways.
  • Give your daughter practical experience tinkering with things. Have your daughter help fix appliances that are broken, put furniture together, install software on the family computer, or change a bicycle tire.
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