“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.”
– Brooke Hampton
For me, there is no better feeling than being a dad, especially a “girl dad.” As a dad to a soon-to-be-four-year-old daughter (whom I call my three-nager), my life can be summed up in four words:
Interesting, yet very rewarding.
Yes, the temper tantrums are not fun. The sleepless nights and the utter refusal to take naps are exhausting. And the day-to-day change of what foods are deemed “yucky” is rather amusing. 😊 Yet, with all these idiosyncrasies within a child’s life, there’s something amazing about seeing a young child hit milestones while learning so much along the way.
We all would agree that kids are like sponges and they will learn and pick up on things one way or the other. They have a special way of figuring out the world around them through exploration, experiences, and especially encouragement. With my daughter, I see light bulbs come on so quickly in her mind, which is amazing! But, as an educational account representative here at Pitsco Education, I also know that there’s a gender gap in STEM fields, in STEM education, and in interest in STEM.
- Women in the US make up only 29 percent of the STEM workforce (NSF).
- Girls gain interest in STEM at age 11 and then lose it again at age 15 (Red Tricycle).
These statistics show we have some big work to do. STEM is for everyone and we need girls to be represented in STEM fields. This helps me realize I can do more to help my daughter and that there is an opportunity for me to assist her in gaining valuable skills she will use now and later.
How can we, as parents and teachers, assist young children in gaining valuable STEM skills they will use forever and not forget?
As a girl dad, I want to briefly share with you a couple things I am trying to develop within my daughter at a very early age so there is no lack of interest in STEM later. A child’s way of learning is so natural to some degree, but the adults in that child’s life can certainly help along the way.
Exploring and Experiences Are Key
One thing I try to do with my daughter is provide her with opportunities and experiences to play through exploration. She loves to explore and investigate and come up with her own ideas about how something works or comes together. What I love about the way she plays and explores is that it’s ultimately building confidence, and confidence builds upon confidence. I want her to be confident enough to continue exploring, but I also want her to be confident enough to fail. Failure is so important to learning through STEM.
One STEM tool that I have used with her before is Bee-Bot®. Bee-Bot is an early-learning programmable robot that encourages exploration and play. In fact, one of the focuses of Bee-Bot is experimentation. When I initially brought the robot home to her, I just let her do some investigating, and I asked her open-ended questions to help get her creative juices flowing.
- What do you think is inside the robot?
- Can you tell me what the buttons do?
- What do you need to do to make the robot do something?
By asking her questions about Bee-Bot as she continued to explore, she was able to build confidence in what she was doing until she got used to the way it worked. This is all I can ask for as a girl dad teaching my daughter about STEM. I need to help her build confidence so she is confident as she grows older. With a little bit of confidence in STEM now, there is less likelihood of a lack of interest later.
Encouragement Is Vital
We all need a little encouragement in our lives. A little boost from someone else is always helpful. Probably more important than anything else I try to do with my daughter is to just be her cheerleader. As she is learning and trying and tinkering and failing on her own, I just let her know I am proud of her. I let her know that it’s OK to fail and mess something up. And, I let her know that whatever she makes is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.
What she believes is what she will become. Or, like our Smart Buddies™ coding solution says, “If you can see it, you can be it.”
I believe one of the reasons there is a lack of interest in STEM among young girls is a lack of encouragement to continue. And that doesn’t have to be with just girls and STEM – it can be with anything for anybody. If you’re not inspired and you’re not being encouraged, it can be difficult to keep moving forward and easy to move in a completely different direction.
Although the E in STEM stands for engineering, I sometimes wish it stood for encouragement.
Because we all need encouragement in some capacity, especially early learners and girls in STEM.
What are some other ways you can build STEM capacity in girls so there is no drop-off later? We’d love to hear your comments and questions below!
Additional reading: Check out Pitsco TAG teacher Lisa Lewis’s blog post “Seven ways to encourage girls in STEM.”
“This Is the Exact Age When Girls Lose Interest in Math and Science”