Why STEM matters
The acronym STEM is now becoming common parlance as we wrestle with how to grow women passionate and knowledgeable about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
While the term is becoming common, unfortunately the numbers of women in these domains are not. In fact on many measures we are actually going backwards. Consider for a moment the following alarming Australian data:
• Australian’s Chief Scientist reports that women comprise just 16% of the total STEM workforce.
• Fewer than 3% of school girls in Victorian State Schools are considering a career in technology.
• While 18% of the engineering cohort are female, there are only 7% of women working as engineers.
• There has been a 65% reduction in the enrolment of women into computer science degrees over the past 10 years.
Let’s also blow the following myths out of the water:
| Myth – community perception
|| Reality – what the research reveals
| Girls are bad at mathematics
|| There is no gender difference in mathematics ability
| Most women are disinterested in careers in engineering, physics and ICT
|| Women’s participation in STEM increases in inclusive cultural environments
| The gender pay gap doesn’t exist
|| Women in STEM earn less than their male colleagues
| The battle against sexism in science has been won
|| While there have been improvements in the treatment of women in science, there is still a long way to go
Reference: Australian Chief Scientist Report Nov 2016
So with these damning statistics, we need to do everything possible to ensure that our girls are capable, competent, confident and with sufficient drive to overcome the hurdles that will be faced in such a biased climate. This is the very reason why we have developed our STEM Street facility. Our intent has been to create a space that this incredibly attractive, warm, inviting and yet functional, where all resources needed to tinker, make, create, investigate, dissect and build are readily available.
The Science Space is light-filled with an extensive array of resources to ensure the delivery of the NESA Science curriculum is as hands-on and interactive as possible. Whether the girls are exploring the biological world through the life cycle of frogs being kept in the aquarium, or investigating a chemical reaction, the learning is fun, interactive and collaborative. Having a dedicated IT technician in the Junior School now ensures that all challenges with devices and hardware needs are quickly met. This also models to girls how technology challenges can be addressed and fixed.
The Curiosity Lab
Our Curiosity Lab (or C-Lab for short) is the most exciting of spaces emblazoned with the Einstein quote – Imagination is more important than knowledge, and provides ready access to circuitry, robotics and building supplies and tools. What a wonderful world the girls can immerse themselves in where creative, iterative thinking is given time and purposeful place.
The Mathematics Exploratorium
The Mathematics Exploratorium is a space packed with colourful resources to ensure that mathematic enquiry is hands-on, attractive and visible. The area has also been set up so that class teachers can readily see and access the extensive collection of resources we so fortunately have.
In each of these spaces we have ensured that the most skilled, passionate and experienced educators are the ones planning great learning activities and responding to the girls’ curiosity and inquiry. We recognise that teachers are the most important factor in effecting great learning outcomes for the girls. We are fortunate to have Mrs Scott, Dr Gunesekere, Dr Preston, Mrs Southan and Mr Knott supporting the learning of the girls and their teachers.
STEM Street has been six years in the planning, and we are thrilled to have the facility and educators to ensure that the best of STEM learning is accessible to all our girls. We believe we are well placed for our girls to leave the Junior School with passion, interest, curiosity and determination to believe that any career pathway can be theirs.