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girls and K-12 science education

Sheila Gay Buzzee buzz at wccf.mit.edu
Mon Jan 18 10:59:00 EST 1993

In article <1993Jan17.174145.1 at max.u.washington.edu>, wijsman at max.u.washington.edu writes...
>Dear netters - 

>I would like to solicit discussion in THIS newsgroup on the topic of
>how we get and keep more girls in the pipeline...

I have just participated in a study here at MIT concerning this topic.  It 
seems that the single biggest factor in our group was having encouraging 
parents.  None of the women in the study group (all of us were graduate 
students or Post-Docs in science) had parents who failed to ACTIVELY encourage 
the pursuit of science.

Many of us also had very encouraging teachers, but often as not there was an 
adversarial relationship with elementary school teachers.  The teachers tended 
to tell girls they couldn't do well in science and the parents encouraged the 
girls to "show them".

As far as how teachers can improve the fraction of girls who choose to pursue 
scientific study, I say encourage them.  Stop expecting them to fail.  Call on 
them in class.  Grade them exactly along the same standards as the boys.  
Expect the best and they will perform for you.  Listen to them when they have 
questions.  Encourage their input.  Very simple, really, but I can't ever 
remember a grade-school science teacher doing any of those things for me.  
They just told me to be quiet, called on the boys, and left me on my own.  It 
was Dad, who always encouraged me, who made sure that I kept interested and 
motivated to study science.

One good thing to do for children- subscribe to scientific magazines that are 
at or just above their level of comprehension.  They should be written with a 
young audience in mind but challenging.  Science Digest is also one that many 
kids can read and get a kick out of, even though it is not produced with 
children in mind.  Publications are a very good way to broaden horizons 
and elevate interest in a fun atmoshpere.


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