Children learn to associate science with men at early ages. As Girls in Science Day approaches (Saturday, 11 February), educators and carers can do something about that, writes guest blogger Kirsty Costa, from Cool Australia. Read on for more and see the links below to Cool Australia’s free early childhood science resources, along with other science tips to help you mark the day.
What do children depict when asked to draw a scientist? Image: Yewhoenter CC BY_SA
Only 16 per cent of the people qualified to work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in Australia are women. This should come as no surprise—most people think ‘man’ when they think ‘scientist’. Using data from nearly 350,000 people in 66 nations, psychology researcher David Miller found that this stereotype exists across the world. It affects how female scientists are treated as well as the attitudes of children towards science.
Half of the brightest minds in Australia are not helping us better understand our world and solve major problems through science. That’s why 11 February is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This day recognises the important role that women and girls play in science, helping society to embrace its full human potential.
How can we, as educators, help more girls get excited about science?
First, the attitudes and messages that we convey make all the difference. Children learn to associate science with men at early ages. We can challenge stereotypes by using language, resources and images that introduce children to examples of female and male scientists. We can invite female parents or friends to talk to children in our early childhood education and care settings about their love of science. We can also use websites like Women in STEMM Australia to share stories about Aussie female scientists and their achievements.
Second, we can build on children’s natural curiosity to introduce science concepts into our daily activities so that girls and boys from an early age are inspired to continue a life-long love of science. Science helps children explore and discover the world around them. Science is woven into outcomes for children under the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), for example ‘children are confident and involved learners’ (Outcome 4). Cool Australia is a not-for-profit that supports early childhood educators to take everyday experiences and turn them into sensory and play-based learning activities. There are a range of science EYLF teaching resources that provide you with the confidence, knowledge, ideas and resources to teach science. Have a look at Cool Australia’s Snappy Science for tips on creating shadows or making clouds. These resources are free to access on Cool Australia’s website along with other EYLF resources.
Science in early childhood has so many rewards for boys, girls and educators. Bring out a sense of wonder, awe and curiosity in your children.
Click here for more from Cool Australia.
More places to look for inspiration, information and activities for science early learning:
Dr Pauline Robert’s STEM workshop, ECA national conference Darwin October 2016 ‘STEM in early childhood Australia: how to keep it simple and fun’.